Nearly 14 percent of Israel’s 5.8 million voters have so far cast their vote for the twentieth Knesset on Tuesday, according to a report by Haaretz. The elections are expected to be a close contest between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Zionist Union, led by Labor’s Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni.
“We're celebrating democracy. We must remember that Israel is a democracy in which the people decide, these elections are a decision between hope and change, and desperation and disappointment. Those who want to continue on Bibi’s (Netanyahu’s) path of disappointment should vote for him, those who want change should vote for the Zionist Union and give me the opportunity to create change,” Herzog, co-chairman of the Zionist Union, reportedly said after casting his ballot in the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu, after voting on Tuesday, reportedly ruled out any post-election alliance with Herzog’s Labor party to form a unity government, and expressed confidence that a government by the nationalist camp -- led by Likud -- would be formed.
Under Israel’s proportional representation voting system, no party has ever won an outright majority, and the results of these elections are expected to be the same. Currently, the minimum percentage of votes needed by a party to get a seat in the Knesset is 3.25 percent. In a pre-election poll cited by Haaretz, the centre-left Zionist Union, which has campaigned against Netanyahu’s economic and foreign policies, has been projected to secure 24 seats of the total 120. The Likud, meanwhile, is projected to win 21 seats.
In addition to international issues, such as Israel’s deteriorating relations with the U.S. and its stand on a nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran, domestic issues like the rising cost of living and slowing economic growth have been key election issues.
Security has also remained a key issue. Toward this end, Netanyahu reportedly said in East Jerusalem on Monday that he was the only person who could ensure the city's security. He also added that no Palestinian state would be formed if he remained the country’s prime minister.
Livni, leader of the Hatnuah party and co-chairperson of the Zionist Union, reportedly said, after casting her ballot, that the elections were a contest between Zionism and extremism, “and only that will determine the identity of the next prime minister.”