Israelis will cast their votes today to elect the country’s nineteenth Knesset. Over five and a half million citizens are eligible to vote at over 10,000 polling stations across the country, which will be open from 7am until 10pm.
Voters will choose from a total of thirty two parties with the results of exit polls set to provide an important indication of how the country has voted immediately after the polls close this evening. An estimated 85 percent of the ballots will be counted overnight, with the rest counted on Wednesday, at which point the Central Elections Committee will publish the official results. This will set the stage for the process of forming a government, which is expected to take several weeks.
Each of the major parties will dispatch volunteers and activists to polling stations and public places throughout the day in order to help secure last minute votes. Party leaders are expected to play an active role in this effort, with Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett scheduled to spend much of the day in the southern city of Beer Sheva before travelling to Lod. Meanwhile, Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni and Labour Party head Shelly Yachimovich are expected to tour polling stations in the centre of the country.
President Shimon Peres cast his vote in Jerusalem early this morning, as did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Accompanied by his wife and two sons, Netanyahu told reporters “I call on everybody to go out and vote.”
Today is a national holiday in Israel with schools and many businesses closed. Hotels in the north of the country have reported a high occupancy rate while traffic jams have been reported this morning on route to the ski site on Mount Hermon.