JERUSALEM — A stronger-than-expected voter turnout in Israel’s parliamentary elections Tuesday lifted hopes of center-left parties, who expect to be the beneficiary of the trend.
As of 6 p.m., 55.5% of eligible voters had cast their ballots, up about five percentage points from 2009, election officials said. Much of the higher turnout appeared to be taking place in secular communities, such as Tel Aviv, and in Arab cities, where turnout is historically low.
It was unclear whether the trends would continue or if Israelis were simply voting earlier in the day than usual, taking advantage of the national election day holiday and spring-like weather. But some Israeli media outlets predicted that overall turnout might surpass 70% for the first time since 1999, when it reached 79%. In 2009 only 65% of eligible voters turned out to the polls.
Concerned by reports that turnout in traditionally conservative communities was lower than usual, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who has been widely seen as a shoo-in for reelection — made several public appeals to his supporters to “leave everything and go vote.”