With election polling stations closing across Israel at 10 pm on Tuesday, many across the state and the world are left wondering who will be crowned the next prime minister of the Jewish state.
As of 6 pm, an estimated 54.6 percent of all of Israel’s eligible voters cast their ballots, the highest voter turnout since 1999. Analysts predict that in total, 70 percent of voters will have taken place in the historic 2015 election.
In the early voting hours, records were made as 13.7 percent voted in just three hours, when polls opened at 7 am. Among active duty IDF soldiers, over 59 percent voted, a four percent rise since the previous elections.
In total, 5,833,365 Israelis are registered to vote in one of 10,119 locations.
The two top contenders for Israel’s top leadership position is current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads the center-right Likud party, and Issac Herzog, head of the Labor, who teamed up with Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni to create a new joint list, the Zionist Union.
The Zionist Union has maintained a slight, but steady lead in the polls since February.
Up for grabs are 120 seats in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. In this elections, 25 parties are competing for seats. As long as a given party garners a threshold of at least 3.25 percent of all votes, they are given a spot in the Knesset. The number of votes determines the total number of seats awarded to a party.
The party that wins the most seats is usually invited to form a coalition government by Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin. However, as seen in 2009’s election when Netanyahu came in second place but was named prime minister, the party that wins the most votes is not necessarily guaranteed an invite to form a government.
On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu took to social media to mobilize right-wing voters to the polls. On Facebook, the prime minister painted a dire picture and said that the Likud party is in major danger of losing the elections.
“We’re in a fateful campaign. There is still a meaningful gap between Labor and Likud,” he said.
The prime minister blamed foreign government and left-wing NGOs of trying to influence the elections. “The gap between Labor and Likud is based primarily on foreign funds that flow in vast quantities to leftist NGOs. Its purpose is to replace a Likud government headed by me with a left government supported by the Arab list,” Netanyahu said.
Livni told voters earlier in the day in Tel Aviv that she “are Herzog are partners, and our goal is to replace Netanyahu, not the chair.” She added that her party is “fighting for…a struggle between Zionism and radicalism.”
Final results of the elections, with a full count of all ballots, will presented to Rivlin on Thursday, March 25.