Media reports predict the highest turnout as Prime Minister Netanyahu fights for his 5th term; 4.4 million Israelis eligible to vote.

Israelis took to the polls on Tuesday to vote for the 21st Knesset (Israel’s Parliament). Voting will be open through Tuesday evening. Election Day a national holiday in Israel, 4.4 million Israelis are eligible to vote and media reports are already claiming one of Israel’s largest turnouts on Tuesday afternoon.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is seeking a fifth, consecutive term under the Likud party against the opposition party, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid’s Blue and White Party which is expected to gain anywhere from 27-32 seats. The prime minister is also set to face a challenge from Arab parties, as well as mandates to right-wing parties that will not sit in a future Netanyahu government. The Lukid party is expected to gain between 26-31 seats and if Netanyahu wins, he will be Israel’s longest-sitting prime minister.

Israelis will vote for 40 different parties, main votes predicted to go to the Blue and White party, Labor Party, Likud, Meretz, United Torah Judaism, Shas, the Union of Right-Wing Parties, the New Right, Hadash-Ta’al and Zehut.

Israel’s electoral system is set so that lists that pass the qualifying electoral threshold receive seats based on their proportional electoral strength. A majority of 120 is needed to head a government and is done so through coalitions. A Knesset term is four years but can be cut short or the government dissolved if a majority of seats is lost. Following the vote, President Rivlin will then choose the party leader who has the greatest chance of establishing a coalition. He may also recommend a coalition government, depending on the vote outcome.

Israel Defense Forces soldiers voted earlier this week, voting stations deployed to military bases across the country.

During last year’s elections, 70% of eligible voters voted. Approximately 60,000 Israelis living abroad will not vote this year, as Israel does not have oversee ballot voting. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government was dissolved by law on December 26, 2018, after his coalition failed due to the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman along with his party Israel Beitenu in November of last year. The political change alongside disagreement over the Orthodox IDF draft bill led to early elections called for April 9.

Votes will be counted and announced on April 9 late at night into the following day.

Be sure to read Behold Israel’s article on the Knesset and voting system in Israel.

Photo: Dan Josephson/