Israeli Elections: Record Turn-Out, But Uncertainty Reigns As Parties Battle For Second

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By Maya Shwayder | January 23, 2013 5:53 AM EST

The polls in Israel close at 2 p.m. New York time, and the only certain numbers coming forward so far are that as of 8p.m. local time (1 p.m. in New York), voter turnout was the highest it had been since 1999, had reached 63.7 percent, and was projected to top 80 percent among soldiers in the Israeli Defense Force, Times of Israel reported. At 7:15 local time, Haaretz reported that voting in Arab communities like Nazareth was beginning to pick up.

“This is the highest turnout we’ve had in ten years,” said Jonny Daniels, a political consultant for the right-wing Likud party, which is projected to keep its plurality in the Knesset, although Daniels said that it was hard to tell how big that would be. “Basically, nobody has a clue what’s happening. It’s impossible to tell how it’s going to end up.”

The Likud-Beiteinu coalition was widely projected to hold onto some 34 or 35 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, with the left-wing Labor party holding down the opposition bloc as the second largest party. But as polling draws to a close, rumors have begun to circulate that it will actually be the brand new Yesh Atid party, whose name in English means “There Is A Future,” that will actually steal the place of second-largest party.

Yesh Atid, a liberal-centrist party headed by Israeli TV journalist Yair Lapid, was founded in 2012, and before Tuesday was polling at 13 to 14 seats, about equivalent with the right-wing Jewish Home party headed by Naftali Bennett. 

An hour before polls closed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a message in Hebrew on his Facebook page, admitting that “Likud rule is in danger,” and encouraging readers to vote for Likud.

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