Voters headed to the polls in Israel Tuesday, and they did so in large numbers. The Central election committee is thus far reporting the highest voter turnout since 1999, four elections ago.
Polling stations across Israel opened at 7 am. 5.6 million eligible voters are able to cast their ballots at more than 10,000 ballot boxes across Israel. One hundred percent of voting booths opened without a hitch, the Central Elections Committee reported, though not everything was so seamless as police were reporting they had received 65 complaints of voter fraud or other irregularities by 12 p.m.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got an early start. Not long after polling stations opened nationwide at 7 a.m. the Netanyahus arrived at the Paula Ben-Gurion school in Jerusalem to vote. Netanyahu is projected to retain his seat, but his joint party list is expected to lose seats in the Knesset.
President Shimon Peres also got an early start: he was one of the first to a ballot after arriving at a polling station in Jerusalem.
“You can hesitate over who to vote for, but don’t hesitate to vote,” Peres was quoted as saying.
Labor party head Shelly Yachimovich remained hopeful on the morning of national elections, saying she was confident that Israelis could replace Netanyahu. “Three to four mandates can really mean that things will be better, that we will be a normal country with strong society and a reasonable economy,” she said according to Israeli media.
Tzipi Livni cast her ballot in a Northern Tel Aviv school, saying her vote represented her hope for a change in Israel’s government.
“I put in that envelope my hopes, not just my personal ones, but for the state of Israel as a whole,” Livni said. “I am excited because I hope that we will wake up to a morning after, after four years of policy that isolated Israel.”
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett voted in his hometown of Raanana at around 8 a.m. with his wife Gilat. Upbeat, he told reporters that “when I see everyone joining Jewish Home I know that something new is about to begin among the Jewish people.”
Restaurants and retailers were getting into the election spirit as well, offering discounts and deals on a rare public holiday in which most Israelis don’t go to work.It’ll be a long day of waiting around for elections for them, however, as results aren’t expected to be announced until 10 p.m.
A video of Prime Minister Netanyahu voting with his family can be viewed below.