Israelis vote in 4th election in 2 years

(Update 1: Adds Netanyahu’s remarks)

Jerusalem, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- Israelis began voting in a fourth parliamentary elections in two years on Tuesday, weeks after a successful nationwide coronavirus vaccination campaign and a progressive economic reopening.

Some 6.6 million citizens are eligible to vote at 13,685 voting centers until 10.00 pm (20.00 GMT) on election day, which the authorities have declared a holiday.

A total of 37 political parties are running in the parliamentary election but only around 12 will be elected to enter the Knesset.

Polls predict that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing conservative Likud party will emerge as the favorite to land some 30 Knesset seats.

His traditional allies in the ultra-Orthodox and right-wing camps of Israeli politics will be in place, although it remains to be seen whether a combination of seats lands them the 61 required to form a majority.

The 71-year-old premier hopes his government’s speedy vaccination rollout, as well as the historic normalization agreements he signed with four Arab countries — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — will boost his chances in this fourth round.

In March 2020, voting turnout was 71.3 percent, higher than the 69.4 percent of September 2019 and the 67.9 percent of April of the same year.

Authorities have invested around $200 million to adapt the voting process to the requirements of the pandemic, making sure those with Covid-19 or in quarantine can vote. It is set to be the most expensive election in the country’s history.

Netanyahu urged his supporters to vote for him as the turnout stood at 34.6 percent by 12 GMT, the lowest since 2009.

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