JERUSALEM—Turnout for Tuesday’s national elections was the highest in decades as of noon, election officials said, dispelling fears of voter apathy for the rare rerun poll.
Israel’s second election in the same year kicked off in the morning as 10,885 voting stations across the country opened their doors at 7 a.m. to 6,394,030 eligible voters. The majority of voting stations will close at 10 p.m.
An earlier election in April failed to produce a governing coalition. Political figures across the board have tried to counter expected voter apathy by urging citizens to cast their ballots. The Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for another term in close elections, called an “emergency meeting,” at the Prime Minister’s Residence to discuss what it claimed was “high turnout in the Arab sector and in the bastions of the left.”
The Joint List of Arab parties said it had seen slightly higher turnout in Arab towns, but voting rates were still well below the national average. Turnout in the Arab sector in April was slightly below 50%.
Surveys have shown Netanyahu’s Likud and chief rival Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party are neck and neck, with neither able to put together a 61-strong coalition. Opinion polls have suggested that Yisrael Beiteinu party of Avigdor Lieberman could emerge as kingmaker in coalition talks because it is forecast to win double its representation in the Knesset, from five seats to 10.
In the previous election, on April 9, parties needed 32,860 votes to receive one Knesset mandate. To pass the electoral threshold, parties needed 3.25% of the overall votes. Voter turnout in April was 68.5%.
In the 70 years since the country’s first election, voter turnout has steadily declined. The 1949 election recorded an all-time high turnout of 86.9%.
In 1951, when the country held its second general election, voter participation dropped to 75.1%, but over the next five consecutive elections, until 1973, over 80% of Israelis voted. In the December 31, 1973, election, several months after the Yom Kippur War, the number dropped to 78.6%. From that point up to the election for the 16th Knesset in 2003, every election saw voter turnout between 77%-79%.
In 2013, for the first time since the state’s inception less than 70% of Israelis exercised their democratic right to vote (68.9%), while voter turnout for the 17th Knesset in 2006 was an all-time low at 63.5%.
After that point voter participation again began to rise, and in the election for the 20th Knesset passed the 70% mark for the first time in a decade (72.34%).