Israelis go to polls in parliamentary elections

2013-01-22 07:22:11 GMT2013-01-22 15:22:11(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

JERUSALEM, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Israelis went to the polls Tuesday morning in the country's early parliamentary elections, with opinion polls predicting an easy win for a right-wing union led by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Voting started at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) at 10,132 polling stations across the country, and is due to end at 10 p.m. According to the Central Election Committee, there are around 5.66 million Israeli citizens eligible to vote.

Accompanied by wife, Sara, and two sons, Netanyahu cast his vote at a polling station near his residence in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood.

A total of 32 parties are running for the 120 seats in the one-chamber parliament, the Knesset. The Likud-Beitenu union, led by Netanyahu and former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, is expected to get around 32 seats, making it the largest bloc in the new parliament, according to final opinion polls published this weekend.

The same polls predicted 17 seats for the Labor Party, 13 to 15 for the far-right Habayit Hayeudi (The Jewish Home) party, 12 for the centrist "Yesh Atid" (There is a Future) party and only seven for Tzipi Livni's center-left "Hatnua" (The Movement) party.

A majority of more than 65 seats is predicted for the right-wing bloc.

More than 20,000 policemen, border guards and police volunteers will be deployed to polling stations, national police spokesperson Mickey Rosenfeld told Xinhua on Monday.

Voter turnout in the 2009 elections stood at 65.2 percent. According to political analysts, there will be a similar turnout at this election, perhaps a bit higher.

However, less than 50 percent of Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20 percent of the country's population, are planning to vote, according to a recent survey published by the Ha'aretz daily. The Arab League has called on Israeli Arabs to vote to change the makeup of the Knesset.

The state has up to 14 days to count the votes and determine the results officially. During this period, parties will be locked in talks aimed at forging possible coalitions.

The politician with the highest chance of putting together a coalition, apparently Netanyahu, will be appointed prime minister by President Shimon Peres.

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