Netanyahu looks set for third term as Israel goes to the polls
By Crispian Balmer, ReutersJERUSALEM -- Israelis voted on Tuesday in an election that is expected to hand hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a third term, opening the way for a showdown with Iran and bolstering opponents of Palestinian statehood.
January 23, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
However, Netanyahu's own Likud party, running alongside the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu group, looks set to have fewer seats than in the previous parliament, with opinion polls showing a surge in support for the far-right Jewish Home party.
Political sources said Netanyahu, concerned by his apparent fall in popularity, might approach center-left parties after the ballot in an effort to broaden his coalition and present a more moderate face to Washington and other concerned allies.
“We want Israel to succeed, we vote Likud-Beitenu ... The bigger it is, the more Israel will succeed,” Netanyahu said after voting alongside his wife and two sons.
Some 5.66 million Israelis are eligible to cast a ballot, with polling stations closing at 10 p.m. (2000 GMT). Full results are due by Wednesday morning, opening the way for coalition talks that could take several weeks.
By 2 p.m., the Israeli election committee said turnout was 38.3 percent, up from 34 percent at the same time in 2009 and the highest level since 1999. Ahead of the ballot, analysts had speculated that high turnout would benefit center-left parties that have sometimes struggled to motivate their voter base.
The lackluster election campaign failed to focus on any single issue and with a Netanyahu victory predicted by every opinion poll, the two main political blocs seemed to spend more time on internal feuding than confronting each other.