Israeli PM Netanyahu casts vote in election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cast his vote in the nation’s fourth election in two years, in which he runs for another term while facing corruption charges.

Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, voted at a polling station in a Jerusalem high school. He called on all citizens to vote. “This is a festival of democracy. This is a happy country. Israel is a country where people are smiling,” he told reporters on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party and Netanyahu’s main rival, cast his vote in Tel Aviv. He said that the current elections, which are widely perceived in Israel as a referendum on Netanyahu’s ability to rule while facing a criminal trial, “are a moment of truth for the State of Israel.”

President Reuven Rivlin urged Israelis to vote. “Four elections in two years erode public trust in the democratic process, but only you can influence,” he said in a statement after casting his ballot. “There is no other way,” he said, referring to four consecutive parliamentary elections held in Israel amidst a lingering political deadlock and inconclusive election results.

Voting started at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) Tuesday in 13,685 polling stations across the country, which is due to end at 10 p.m. (2000 GMT).

According to the Central Election Committee, the body which oversees the elections in Israel, some 6,578,084 Israeli citizens are eligible to vote. Some 38 parties are running in the elections.

Exit polls will be published at 10 p.m. and the initial official results are expected early on Wednesday morning.