At 7 a.m, Tuesday, March 17, polling stations opened for the first of Israel’s 5,881,696 voters to cast ballots for their next parliament and government. Of that number, 80 pc are Jews, 15 pc Arab and 5 pc neither. The 25 lists which entered the race posted 1,280 candidates, of whom less than one-tenth will be placed in Knesset seats. The new lists are the Zionist Union (a merger between veteran Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah), the Joint List of four Arab parties and Ellie Yishay’s Yahad which broke away from the ultra-religious Shas.
Yahad like other small parties is in danger of extinction if they fail to make the new 3.25 percent electoral threshold.
The last election turnout eighteen months ago was 67.8 percent. The three television stations promise exit polls at 2200 hours.