JERUSALEM – Millions of Israelis began streaming to polls Tuesday in a national election that will help shape the nation's future course amid rising regional instability and a ballooning budget deficit at home.
More than 10,000 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. to receive votes cast by as many as 5.6 million eligible voters. But far fewer may actually end up voting. Voter turnout during the last election in 2009 dropped to 65%.
Polls will close by 10 p.m., and preliminary results are expected late Tuesday night with an official tally announced Wednesday.
Many experts predict that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud Party, which is running on a joint slate with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, will win the most votes, securing Netanyahu’s third term.
But recent polls suggested that support for the Netanyahu-led slate was slipping. Though the two parties separately won a total of 42 seats in 2009, their joint slate is expected to receive 32-35 seats this time around.