Turnout was high for the Israeli elections today, with 27.6% of eligible voters casting their ballots by noon. The numbers contradict prior estimates of voter fatigue in the country's third elections in a year. Concerns over the coronavirus deterring voters were proven wrong, as were fears that foreign states or agents would try to influencing voting rates with misinformation. In fact, turnout as of noon was the highest registered in Israel since 1999, when the leftist camp won the election.
The central election committee, police and health authorities prepared 14 polling booths designed to serve several thousand quarantined voters with sanitation measures and protective gear for poll workers. Preparations have also been made to address any misinformation spread about the virus.
If turnout continues to be high until polls close tonight, it will surely impact results, yet it is unclear at the moment who stands to profit the most. Reports from Arab towns and villages indicate slightly higher turnout compared with the last two elections. If this trend continues, it could benefit the leftist bloc and Benny Gantz, who lost some of his momentum in recent days, with his Blue and White Party no longer polling as the biggest party.
Israel’s 2020 election has been highly dramatic, as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s fate depends on its outcome. His graft trial is scheduled to open on March 17. Netanyahu conducted an aggressive and focused election campaign, attacking Gantz as unfit to serve as premier. This morning Netanyahu disseminated messages on social networks arguing that the right needs just one more seat in order to win.
Gantz has also carried out an aggressive campaign in the days preceding the elections, comparing Netanyahu to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The mudslinging has made it one of the stormiest election campaigns Israel has ever experienced. Before casting his vote, President Reuven Rivlin commented, "I have an uneasy feeling, shame even. We just don't deserve this. We don't deserve another awful and grubby election campaign like the one that ends today and we don't deserve this never ending instability.’’
Still, all public opinion polls indicate that today’s elections won’t end the ongoing political stalemate and that Netanyahu won’t reach the majority of 61 Knesset seats he needs to compose the next government and continue as Israel’s prime minister. If the polls prove right, Israel could soon find itself in a fourth election race.