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The Latest on Israeli election: Arab leader Ayman Odeh urges high turnout in Israeli vote
Published in Ahram Online on 17 - 09 - 2019


1 p.m.:
The leader of the main Arab faction in Israel's parliament says his constituents ``must be first-class voters on the way to becoming first-class citizens.''
Ayman Odeh cast his ballot on Tuesday in the northern city of Haifa and urged his fellow Arab citizens to vote in large numbers. He called Benjamin Netanyahu "an obsessive prime minister who is inciting against us.''
Netanyahu has alleged fraud in Arab voting areas and unsuccessfully pushed for legislation to place cameras in polling stations on election day. He also has accused his opponents of conspiring with Arab politicians to "steal'' the election.
Turnout in the minority Arab sector was just below 50% in April. Many Arab voters boycotted the vote. Odeh has banded the various Arab parties together in a bid to boost turnout.
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12:45 p.m.
Israel's central election committee says early turnout for the repeat election has been slightly higher than the previous round.
It says that as of 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, some 15% of Israelis had already cast their ballots. It marked more than a 2% increase over the figure at the same time in April.
Voter turnout has emerged as a key element of this election.
Election day is a national holiday, a measure aimed at encouraging participation.
In April's election, turnout was about 69%, slightly below the 72% figure in the previous election in 2015.
But turnout in the minority Arab sector was just below 50% and many Arab voters boycotted the election. The various Arab leaders have handed together on a joint list for this election, hoping to boost turnout.
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10:30 a.m.
The chief challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel's election says the vote is about hope and change.
Retired military chief Benny Gantz cast his ballot on Tuesday alongside his wife near his home in the central Israeli city of Rosh Haayin.
Gantz's centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu's Likud. Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.
Outside his polling station, Gantz says "we will bring hope, we will be bring change, without corruption, without extremism.''
The decorated ex-general is campaigning on unity and egalitarianism, offering himself as a calming influence and honest alternative to the scandal-plagued Netanyahu. It's the second election this year, after Netanyahu failed to build a coalition following April's vote and dissolved parliament
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10:00 a.m.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country's election is going to be "very close.''
Netanyahu cast his vote on Tuesday in Jerusalem alongside his wife. He is seeking a fifth term against the prospect of a likely indictment on corruption charges.
He faces a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu's Likud. Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.
Netanyahu urged all citizens to cast their ballots and said of the election that "I can confirm to you this morning that they are very close.''
It's the second election this year, after Netanyahu failed to build a coalition following April's vote and dissolved parliament.
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9:00 a.m.
The potential kingmaker of the Israeli election says he will insist upon a unity government between the two largest factions.
Avigdor Lieberman cast his vote early on Tuesday in his settlement of Nokdim. Lieberman, a former defense minister and one-time protege of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, forced Israel's unprecedented second election of the year when he refused to join Netanyahu's coalition government after the previous election in April.
Polls suggest Netanyahu won't be able to form another coalition without Lieberman's support.
Lieberman says there won't be a third round of elections and the parties will have to deal with the "constellation'' that emerges from this vote.
He says he will only sit in a wide government that includes Netanyahu's Likud and its main challenger, the centrist Blue and White party.
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7:00 a.m.
Israelis have begun voting in an unprecedented repeat election that will decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power.
Against the prospect of a likely indictment on corruption charges, Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term.
He faces a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu's Likud. Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.
It's the second election this year, after Netanyahu failed to build a coalition following April's vote and dissolved parliament.
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday with exit polls expected at the end of the voting day at 10 p.m. Official results are projected to come in overnight.


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