Turnout in the Israeli elections Tuesday may be breaking records, with more than a quarter of eligible voters casting ballots by noon local time, according to Ynetnews. The contest, in which 120 seats in Israel’s parliament are up for grabs along with prime minister, already surpassed early vote totals from 2014. Nearly 14 percent of eligible Israeli voters headed to the polls from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. local time, more than the 11.4 percent who did so last year.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has been trailing in the polls to opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s Labor party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party, which have joined forces in a alliance known as the Zionist Union. Netanyahu stirred controversy both within Israel and the United States when he addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress last month to warn against the dangers of a nuclear deal with Iran. Israelis viewed the speech as nonproductive while Democratic members of Congress said the address amounted to electioneering and were peeved that the White House wasn’t consulted on Netanyahu’s visit.
Netanyahu tried to rally support at a campaign rally Monday, where he acknowledged that his party was behind in the polls. “This is a fateful struggle, a close struggle,” he said, according to USA Today. “We must close this gap. We can close this gap.”
Iran and Israel’s icy relationship with the U.S. as of late has been among the key issues in Israel’s election. Some of the domestic issues dominating the debate in the Jewish state include the economy, specifically an increase in cost of living and slower economic growth.
Israeli media are expected to release exit polls from the election after balloting ends at 10 p.m. local time, according to Ynetnews. Final results of the election usually come out Wednesday morning, when about 90 percent of ballots are counted. Further results are released on Thursday, when about 99 percent of the ballots are counted. A final count is expected to occur March 25.