Many eyes around the world are directed today towards Israel, where 5,883,365 eligible citizens poured into more than ten thousand voting stations to determine the identity of the country’s next prime minister and the make-up of its government coalition.
With polls now closed, it is estimated that 71.8% of eligible citizens voted in this election, representing the largest turnout since 1999.
Initial exit polls made public at 22:00 Israeli time (16:00 EST), have presented a close competition between the Likud, headed by current PM Binyamin Netanyahu, and the Zionist camp headed by Yizhak Herzog, with both parties essentially tied with 27 projected knesset seats each; The newly formed Arab list, a coalition between four Israeli-Arab parties, has made history and secured its place as the third largest party in the country with 13 projected seats; Yesh Atid, headed by former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, is the forth largest party with 12. Given the close results, analysts are predicting that the final election results will probably not be known before Thursday.
Despite claims by Netanyahu, who called on his supporters to arrive in large numbers due to “a significant Arab voter turnout”, no unusual turnout was noted among votes in the Israeli-Arab sector.
Earlier today, the Likud was forced to admit it distributed an edited tape of former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, now running at the head of his own party, Kulanu. The tape, which made use of a two-year-old recording from when Kahlon was a Likud member, was used in election calls, misleading voters into believing that Kahlon was supporting PM Netanyahu. The Likud was banned from using the tape and was fined 20,000 NIS by the court.
Some photos from today’s trip to the election booth (disclaimer: this writer is a dual US/Israeli citizen, and as such is eligible to vote while in Israel):