Morning turnout highest since 1999 as Israelis vote for 5th time amid deadlock
More than 12,000 polling stations across the country opened on Tuesday morning to allow some 6.8 million eligible Israeli voters to cast their ballots as the country went to the polls for the fifth time in four years.
Central Electoral Commission Director General Orly Ades announced that as of 12:00 p.m., about 28.4 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots, the highest midday percentage since 1999.
For comparison, in the last elections held in March 2021, 25.4% of the public voted this time.
But the voting process did not go smoothly everywhere. A polling station in Beit Shemesh was closed and moved to a new location after extremists sprayed a foul-smelling liquid in an apparent attempt to discourage voters.
Elsewhere, leaders of most political parties voted while encouraging citizens to exercise their democratic right.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who began the day by visiting the grave of his father, a prominent cabinet minister and journalist, cast his vote at a polling station near his home in Tel Aviv.
“Go vote today for the future of our children and the future of our country. Vote well and good luck to all of us,” said the prime minister, citing the name of his party Yesh Atid (“There is a future”).
Most polls, though unreliable, give the current alliance of coalition parties led by Lapid with 56 seats.
President Isaac Herzog, voting in Jerusalem, said every slip in the vote would have an impact.
“Participating in the process of free, fair and equal elections is a huge privilege. “Billions of people around the world do not enjoy this privilege,” he said.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, all voices have an impact. “Anyone who thinks their vote doesn’t matter is wrong,” Herzog added.
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu cast his vote in Jerusalem, accompanied by his wife Sarah, and called on everyone to take advantage of their “great privilege”.
The opposition leader claimed he was worried about the large turnout in “left” districts, but said he hoped to “end the day with a smile”.
Most polls in recent days have given Netanyahu’s bloc 60 seats, meaning the slightest shift in the opposition leader’s favor could allow him to form a coalition and return to power with the support of the far-right Religious Zionist Party and both. Haredi Parties, Shas, and United Torah Judaism.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged voters to vote for the party they see as the most powerful, not the biggest. The leader of the “National Unity” party is considered the third potential candidate for the prime minister, after Lapid and Netanyahu.
“We don’t want more provocations or more divisions. We want more unity, more security, more reconciliation between people,” he said, voting outside his home in the central town of Rosh Ha’in.
“In my opinion, this election is not about the big party, it’s about the party that is most capable of standing against incitement, division and unity,” Gantz said.
Deputy Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is not running in the elections and has not publicly supported any party or candidate, called for a government of national unity.
“We will put slogans and hate behind us, we will work to mend the rifts and reunite, with God’s help, into a big and broad government, a government of unity,” Bennett said in a statement.
MK Itamar Ben Gvir, whose far-right party is expected to make significant gains, cast his vote in the southern West Bank town of Kiryat Arba, where he told reporters that a vote for him was a vote for a right-wing, right-wing government. Netanyahu of Likud.
“You get it with one ballot [Likud chairman Benjamin] Netanyahu as prime minister, together with a full right-wing government,” said the extremist lawmaker.
Zehava Galon, head of Meretz, said the election will determine whether liberal or extreme ideology wins.
“These are the first elections in the country’s history [making a choice] Between democracy and Priesthood,” he said at the Petah Tikva polling station. Gallon has been an outspoken critic of Ben Gvir, a follower of the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane.
According to Galon, Meretz is in a “state of emergency” and may not clear the 3.25 percent threshold to enter the Knesset, a result that would boost the right-wing alliance led by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and including Ben Gvir.
Immediately after the vote in Tel Aviv, the leader of the Labor Party, Merav Michaeli, noted that there was a woman. killed Hours earlier in his Herzliya home and said that “this is what we are fighting against every day and hour: our personal security everywhere, even at home. We will not leave until this violence ends.”
Mikaeli had earlier called on voters to go to the polls, saying the election was “in our hands” while expressing concern that his party could fall short of the Knesset threshold.
Balad leader Sami Abu Shehadeh cast his vote in Jaffa and called on the public to vote for his Arab nationalist party to fight racism in Israel.
“Israel’s problem is not Netanyahu or Lapid, the problem is racism. We have to fight for it, and that’s why people vote for Balad,” he said.
All Israeli citizens 18 years of age or older on Election Day have the right to vote for their representatives in the 25th Knesset.
Immigrants who complete their citizenship registration at least 60 days before today are also eligible to vote, including the nearly 45,000 new Israelis who arrived this year through the end of August.
Special polling booths have been set up to help some citizens who face special barriers to voting, including soldiers, senior citizens in care facilities and hospitalized patients.
There are also 414 special polling stations for which voters must be quarantined after exposure to or infection with COVID-19.
Although the official results will be known eight days after the election, the final results are expected later this week.
However, Israelis may need to wait days, weeks or possibly even months before they know whether and who will form a government.
Jacob Magid, Kerry Keller-Lynn and Jack Mukand contributed to this report.
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