Israel's September 2019 elections. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) Yonatan Sindel/Flash90


Turnout in Israel’s national elections on Tuesday are on track to outpace the April vote.

By Associated Press

Israel’s Central Elections Committee said Tuesday that 63.7% of eligible voters had cast ballots by 8 p.m., around 2.4 percentage points higher than was reported at the same time during the previous election in April. When polls closed at 10 p.m., the two major parties, Likud and the Blue and White faction, appeared to be running neck and neck in exit polls.

While Israelis typically vote in greater numbers than in many democracies, the April vote saw a comparatively low turnout. An unprecedented repeat vote was called after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition and parliament dissolved itself.

Netanyahu, whose political career is on the line in a tight race, and other party leaders delivered election day appeals for citizens to go to the polls.

The leader of the main Arab faction in Israel’s parliament, Ayman Odeh, cast his ballot on Tuesday in the northern city of Haifa and urged his fellow Arab citizens to vote in large numbers.

Netanyahu has alleged fraud in Arab voting areas and pushed for legislation to place cameras in polling stations on election day. He also accused his opponents of conspiring with Arab politicians to “steal” the election.

Turnout in the minority Arab sector was just below 50% in April. Many Arab voters boycotted the vote. Odeh has banded the various Arab parties together in a bid to boost turnout.

Retired military chief Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s chief challenger in Israel’s election, says the vote is about hope and change.

Gantz cast his ballot on Tuesday alongside his wife near his home in the central Israeli city of Rosh Haayin.

Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud. Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.

Netanyahu says his country’s election is going to be “very close,” casting his vote on Tuesday in Jerusalem alongside his wife. He is seeking a fifth term.

Netanyahu urged all citizens to cast their ballots and said of the election that “I can confirm to you this morning that they are very close.”

Meanwhile, the potential kingmaker, Avigdor Lieberman, of the Israeli election says he will insist upon a unity government between the two largest factions.

Lieberman cast his vote early on Tuesday in his town of Nokdim. Lieberman, a former defense minister and one-time protégé of Netanyahu, forced Israel’s unprecedented second election of the year when he refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition government after the previous election in April.

Polls suggest Netanyahu won’t be able to form another coalition without Lieberman’s support.

Lieberman says there won’t be a third round of elections and the parties will have to deal with the “constellation” that emerges from this vote.

He says he will only sit in a wide government that includes Netanyahu’s Likud and its main challenger, the centrist Blue and White party.


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