Israeli voters start early to elect new government


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Voters came out early as Israelis went to the polls to elect the 20th Knesset.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, three hours after the polls opened, voter turnout was at 13.7 percent — the highest at that hour since 1999, when the Labor Party unseated a Netanyahu-led government. Historically, high turnout has been good news for the left.

The last polls, from Friday, showed the center-left Zionist Union slate leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. Zionist Union is a combination of the Labor and Hatnuah parties led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, respectively.

By noon, the turnout was reported to be 26.5 percent, nearly the same as in 2013.

As of 11:30 a.m. it was reported that Arab voter turnout was at 10 percent, as opposed to 3 percent in 2013.

In 2013, the total voter turnout was 67.7 percent.

Nearly 6 million Israelis who are eligible to vote at the more than 10,000 polling locations across the country, including in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Israelis in hospitals and prisons can vote in their institutions.

There are 25 candidate slates running in the election, including six lists combining parties.

The polls will close at 10 p.m. Final results based on a count of 90 percent of the votes will be released on Wednesday morning, and a 99 percent count will be issued on Thursday.

The final results are delivered to President Reuven Rivlin on March 25, and he will decide which party leader will be given the opportunity to assemble a governing coalition.

The cost to run the election, according to Haaretz, citing Central Elections Committee figures, is $59.7 million.

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