In Final Hours of Voting, Parties Make Last Push

With voter participation now at its highest level in more than a decade after slightly underwhelming turnout earlier in the day, Israeli political parties are making their final pitches to be included in the next government.

According to the latest numbers at 8:00 PM local time, voter participation was at 65.7%, up two percentage points from the last election.

Israel’s Central Elections Committee banned the broadcasting of press conferences by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Zionist Union today, in keeping with the Israeli law limiting the broadcast of electioneering. The Times of Israel noted that Central Election Committee chairman Salim Joubran, a Supreme Court justice, has generally not enforced the restrictions, “but has enforced them when competing parties appealed against them.”

Earlier in the day, a couple on their way to get married went to vote with Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On urged left-leaning voters to stick with the party, rather than cast their ballot towards Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni’s Zionist Union.

While polls last week projected an average of five seats for Meretz, the party worries that its traditional voter base might shift towards Zionist Union to ensure the latter surpasses Likud as the largest party, thereby depriving Meretz of votes and sinking them below the 3.25% electoral threshold. In such a scenario, any seats Meretz receives will be invalidated, and the left wing would lose a potentially decisive chunk of votes. Gal-On directly warned against such a development, saying it would mean that “four seats of leftwing votes won’t be counted, and Herzog won’t be prime minister, and the Left will be out of the Knesset. Without Meretz, Herzog has no chance of replacing Netanyahu.”

In a similar vein, Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, has been trying to influence potential voters to stick with his party instead of voting for Likud. Bennett reportedly has seen the projected number of seats for his party drop into the single digits.

When he voted this morning, Kulanu party leader Moshe Kahlon said, “This is the first time I am not voting for Likud, but I do it wholeheartedly.” Kahlon broke off from Likud to form his own party, recruited former Ambassador Michael Oren to his party, and is projected to be a “kingmaker” in any potential governing coalition.

[Photo: WochitGeneralNews / YouTube ]