Millennium Post

Millions of Israelis vote for Parliament, Netanyahu seeks a record fourth term

Millions of Israelis vote for Parliament, Netanyahu seeks a record fourth term
Voting began at 7 AM and a record number of 13.7 per cent voters turned out in the first three hours - over 20 per cent higher than voter turnout in previous two elections.

By 2 PM, an estimated 36.7 per cent of voters cast their ballots at polling stations throughout Israel.
Ballots are for political parties rather than individual candidates.

Israel has a proportional representation system, meaning a coalition government is likely to be formed within its 120-seat Knesset, or parliament. Election is being held for all the 120 seats. In the current Parliament Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party has 18 seats. About 5.9 million voters are eligible to vote and are casting their ballot across the over 10,000 voting stations.

A high voter turnout is expected this time after general turnout in polls have been on the decline since 1999 till when it used to be close to 80 per cent.

In a last-ditch effort to woo rightwing voters, 65-year- old Netanyahu last night ruled out a Palestinian state, backtracking from his own six-year-old policy.

Netanyahu, whose campaign focused on Israel’s security and Iranian nuclear threat, today appeal to hard-liners to rush to the polling booths, saying high Arab voter turnout was endangering his right wing party’s dominance.

“Arab voters are going to the polls in droves. Left wing organisations are bringing them in buses,” he said. Amid signs that his six-year rule could be in jeopardy, the hawkish prime minister called on supporters to vote for him to “narrow the gap” between Likud and the Zionist Union. Four Arab parties are fighting under one banner for the first time and they could become a factor in the coalition- building. Israeli Arabs make up 20 per cent of the population.

Netanyahu’s main rival, 54-year-old Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog has promised to repair ties with the Palestinians and the international community and also deal with middle class issues such as price rise.

Herzog’s centrist Zionist Union was ahead in the recent opinion polls by about four seats. The surveys show Netanyahu will have an advantage over his rival when it comes to piecing together a coalition with smaller allies from the right.

Sensing an opportunity, the right-wing leader vowed to form a nationalist government while casting his ballot here. The Israeli Premier also posted a notice on his Facebook page pledging to first invite Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett into his coalition after having tried to lure the right-wing party’s supporters to vote for Likud.
Agencies

Agencies

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