JERUSALEM, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scrambled Tuesday evening to urge Likud supporters to cast their ballots at polling stations across the country, as a record-high voter turnout in general elections sparked fears of collapse within his ruling Likud party.
Voter turnout peaked to 55.5 percent of Israel's 5.6 million eligible voters by 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), in comparison to the 50.3 percent who voted by 6 p.m. in the 2009 election, the Central Elections Committee (CEC) reported.
A CEC statistician estimated that the turnout could top 70 percent when polling stations close at 10:00 p.m., after which initial exit polls would be released.
"We have seen in the past that the trend can change at 8:00 p.m. ," Prof. Avraham Diskin told Channel 10.
The higher turnout could change the electoral threshold required for a party list to gain footing in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) to 80,000 votes, as opposed to 67,000 in 2009, Ha' aretz reported.
In parallel, a relatively low turnout in traditional Likud bastions saw Netanyahu scrambling to get voters out to over 10,000 polling stations across the nation.
"There are reports that in regions that have traditionally been Likud strongholds, turnout has been lower than the national average," Netanyahu said at a polling station in the port city of Ashdod, "I call on all generations of Likud voters to drop everything and go vote."
Public opinion polls in recent days predicted up to 42 seats in the Knesset for Likud and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which are running on a joint ticket, and the right-wing bloc securing upwards of 70 seats in total.
"We're lucky if we get 31 seats," Ha'aretz quoted one Likud official as saying shortly after the voter turnout figures were released.