JERUSALEM (Oct. 30)
Israeli voters who will be away from home during the Knesset elections Tuesday cast early ballots over the weekend.
They include soldiers on duty in southern Lebanon. Portable voting booths were trucked to forward positions by special army crews.
But the first Israelis to vote were merchant marines, who are relatively few in number but scattered all over the globe. Their ballots were being flown home in time for the vote count Tuesday evening.
There is no absentee ballot, however, for Israelis living abroad or visiting foreign countries on Election Day.
As the Central Election Committee began setting up its array of computers and communications equipment in the Knesset building in preparation for the vote count, the national police was bracing for Election Day violence.
There will be 4,840 polling stations. About 9,000 police officers have been deployed to keep the peace and ensure scrupulous observance of the law.
Police Commissioner David Kraus said Sunday his force would be particularly watchful in two sectors — Arab and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
He said inter-party tensions have reached a troublesome level among both groups. There have been sporadic reports of violent confrontations between Israeli Arab supporters of the Hadash Communist Party, the Progressive List for Peace and the new Arab Democratic Party.
KACH TO AVOID DISRUPTIONS
Among the ultra-Orthodox Jews, brawls have been reported between followers of the Agudat Yisrael, Degel Hatorah and Shas parties.
One headache expected by the police may not materialize. Rabbi Meir Kahane’s extremist Kach party, removed from the ballot by court order a week ago, reportedly has decided not to try to disrupt the elections.
But Kahane’s followers have applied to be poll watchers, which could spell trouble, especially in Israeli Arab towns.
The Kach leadership has called on its supporters to boycott the elections, or at least not to vote for the parties responsible for keeping Kach out of the elections. They include both Labor and Likud.
Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported that 2.89 million people will be eligible to vote Tuesday. Of that number, 88 percent are Jews and 12 percent non-Jews.
The number of Jews eligible to vote has risen by 8 percent since the last elections in 1984. The number of eligible non-Jews has shot up by 20 percent.
A statistical breakdown shows that 24 percent of the voters live in the three largest cities: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Kibbutzim account for only 3 percent of the electorate, moshavim for 4 percent.
Voters of Sephardic and Ashkenazic origin each account for about 47-48 percent of the electorate. The remainder are third-generation Israelis — and some whose families have lived in the country even longer — who consider them-selves neither Sephardic nor Ashkenazic.
The polls close at 10 p.m. local time Tuesday, and the vote count will start immediately thereafter. Election bulletins and updates will be issued throughout the night.
But an accurate reading of the results will not be available until well into Wednesday morning.