Israeli Prime Minister and the leader of Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu casts his ballot at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Jerusalem, on Jan. 22, 2013. Israel held parliamentary election on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Pool/Uriel Sinai)
JERUSALEM, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Israelis have begun voting in general elections to pick a new parliament, with expectations for an easy win for right-wing incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and growing fears for a more right-wing new government.
The voting process started on Tuesday at 7 a.m. local time ( 0500 GMT) in 10,132 polling stations nationwide, and is due to end at 10 p.m.
According to the Central Election Committee, there are more than 5.65 million Israeli citizens, who are eligible to vote in this election.
The electoral body reported that the voting rate is higher than last elections. Until noon, voter turnout stood at 26.7 percent, with an increase of more than three percentage points from the last four elections. The overall voter turnout in the 2009 elections stood at 65.2 percent.
According to political analysts, there will be a similar turnout at Tuesday's elections, perhaps a bit higher.
Netanyahu, accompanied by wife Sara and two sons, cast his vote at a polling station near his residence in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood.
"This is the first family vote. Whoever wants Israel to succeed should vote for one big party," Netanyahu said after voting.
"It's not a rainy day, but we hope it will rain Likud ballots," the Israeli premier said.
After casting his ballot, Netanyahu directly went together with his two sons to put a note in the Wailing Wall. According to Israeli media, the note said: "With God's help, for the future of Israel."
"He (Netanyahu) is strong and I believe he can cope with things like the economy," said Lavi, a new immigrant who only gave part of his name, told Xinhua at a polling station in Jerusalem.
At another polling station in Jerusalem, dozens of Israeli voters were going in and out. Rachel and Moshe Cohen told Xinhua: "It is important to vote today, and give strength to the correct candidates. We won't feel good with ourselves if we give up our right to vote." "I'm still not sure who to vote for. My dilemma is between a large and powerful party and a new party that might make a greater difference," said Harel Yochanan, a 24-year-old man, who was standing outside the station and waiting to cast ballot.
In Israel's largest city, Tel Aviv, which is known for its large liberal population, Yonit Harel, a 42-year-old woman, told Xinhua that she has voted for Meretz, a left-wing party.
The Israeli parliamentary elections, originally set for October this year, were postponed due to a failure of parties in the ruling coalition to agree on a new budget.
A total of 32 parties are running for the 120 seats in the one- chamber parliament, the Knesset. The Likud-Beytenu 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 also predicted 17 seats for the Labor Party, between 13 to 15 to the far-right Habayit Hayeudi (The Jewish Home) party, 12 to the center Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party and only seven for Tzipi Livni's center-left Hatnua (The Movement) party.
The predictions suggest that the right-wing bloc will win a majority within the Knesset of more than 65 seats, as opposed to the center-left bloc.
The politician with the higher chance of putting together a coalition with a majority of 61 seats, apparently Netanyahu, would be given the appointment as prime minister by Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Observers here project that if Netanyahu is chosen chooses to form a new coalition with other right-wing parties, including The Jewish Home, the new government would be more right-wing than the previous one.
A government made up of all right-wing and religious parties would obviously make hopes for peace with the Palestinians slimmer and Israel's stance toward Iran's nuclear issue more hawkish, the observers predict.
In a sign of fear of such a scenario, the Arab League has called on Israeli-Arabs to vote so as to change the makeup of the Knesset.
According to a recent survey published by the Ha'aretz daily, less than 50 percent of Israeli-Arabs, who constitute 20 percent of the country's population, are planning to vote Tuesday.
Results of exit polls are expected to come out Tuesday night and full official results could not be known until Wednesday.
The Final official results will be announced 14 days after the vote. During this time, members of the parties with the largest amount of votes will try to form a coalition.
JERUSALEM, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Israelis trickled into 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.Full story
JERUSALEM, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Israelis went to the polls Tuesday morning in a parliamentary election, which opinion polls have predicted will be easily won by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-Beitenu union.
The following are some key facts and procedures for the elections:
-- A total of 32 parties are vying for the 120 seats in the single-chamber parliament, the Knesset. Knesset elections are based on a vote for a party rather than for individuals.Full story
JERUSALEM, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Israel's 5.6 million eligible voters began to cast their ballots Tuesday for the general elections while recent polls show a landslide victory for incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud, which are running on a joint slate with the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party. Full story
TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- With a warm and sunny day residents of Tel Aviv flocked Tuesday to polling stations strewn across the city to cast their ballots in Israel's general elections. Full story