Early turnout higher in repeat Israeli election

Israelis on Tuesday have begun voting in repeat general elections that will decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power.

:: Israel’s central election committee says early turnout for the repeat election has been slightly higher than the previous round.

It says that as of 10 a.m. on Tuesday, some 15 percent of Israelis had already cast their ballots. It marked more than a 2 percent increase over the figure at the same time in April.

Voter turnout has emerged as a key element of this election. Election Day is a national holiday, a measure aimed at encouraging participation.

In April’s election, turnout was about 69 percent, slightly below the 72 percent figure in the previous election in 2015.

But turnout in the minority Arab sector was just below 50 percent and many Arab voters boycotted the election. The various Arab leaders have handed together on a joint list for this election, hoping to boost turnout.

Against the prospect of a likely indictment on corruption charges, Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term.

He faces a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud. Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.

It’s the second election this year after Netanyahu failed to build a coalition following April’s vote and dissolved parliament.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday with exit polls expected at the end of the voting day at 10 p.m. Official results are projected to come in overnight.

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