BET À DAY
JERUSALEM | Israelis thronged to polling stations on Tuesday for their fifth legislative election in the space of three and a half years, which right-wing ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is determined to win and whose outcome stands the test of time. breathless country.
Two camps, represented by around forty lists, compete for this proportional vote: the one in favor of a return to power of Benjamin Netanyahu, tried for corruption, and the other which wants to maintain in power a young heterogeneous coalition led by the centrist Yaïr Lapid.
At 2:00 p.m. (12:00 GMT), the turnout stood at 38.9%, or 4.3% more than in the last legislative elections in March 2021. This is also the highest rate at this time since 1999, according to the electoral commission.
Polling stations, open since 07:00 (05:00 GMT), must close at 22:00 (20:00 GMT). Then will fall exit polls, followed by the first official results before a final count on Thursday.
The political class has during the day multiplied the calls to the 6.8 million registered voters, Benjamin Netanyahu, who wants to sign his big comeback, moving to the suburbs of Tel Aviv “to make sure everyone goes out to vote” for his party, the Likud.
“We won't have another chance,” said the most enduring head of government in the history of Israel, who is trying to rally a majority of 61 deputies, out of the 120 in Parliament, with his allies from the ultra-parties. Orthodox and far-right leaders, led by Itamar Ben Gvir, who is on a roll.
“I hope we end this day with a big smile,” said Netanyahu, 73 years, who voted in Jerusalem.
“Those who vote for us will have Netanyahu as prime minister and a real right-wing government,” assured Mr. Ben Gvir, who voted in a colony in Occupied West Bank.
Faced with this “right-wing bloc”, Yaïr Lapid, 58, leader of the Yesh Atid party (“There is a future”) and leader of a unique coalition in the history of Israel because bringing together left, center, right and an Arab party, tries to convince that the course given in recent months must be maintained.
“Go vote today for the future of our children, for the future of our country. Vote well!”, declared Mr. Lapid in his stronghold of Tel Aviv.
The “coalition of change” led by Naftali Bennett and Yaïr Lapid had ousted Benjamin Netanyahu from power in June 2021 before losing its parliamentary majority a year later, precipitating this fifth election since the spring of 2019.
“I am very frustrated, every year there is a new election, there is no political stability and that blocks a lot of things”, regretted to AFP Amy Segal, 26, employed in a ministry.
Proof of the ambient suspense, the latest polls credited Mr. Netanyahu's “right-wing bloc” with 60 seats, just one from the threshold of a majority, against 56 for Yaïr Lapid and his allies.
The 3.25% threshold
The campaign has accelerated in recent days, with parties trying to convince the last undecided to go to the polls, especially in minority towns Arabic.
In 2020, Arab Israeli parties garnered a record 15 seats after a vigorous campaign under one banner. But this time, they are running in dispersed order under three lists: Raam (moderate Islamist), Hadash-Taal (secular) and Balad (nationalist).
In the Israeli proportional system, an electoral list must obtain at least 3.25% of the votes to enter Parliament with a minimum of four seats.
Divided, the Arab parties could not reach this threshold and thus favor the victory of the Netanyahu camp and his allies .
These elections come in a climate of renewed violence in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, where Israeli forces have increased their operations in recent months in the wake of deadly anti-Israeli attacks .
Israeli operations have killed more than 120 Palestinians, the heaviest toll in seven years.
The Israeli army on Tuesday closed access points to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, except for “humanitarian” emergencies.