Photo: AFP
Voting in Jerusalem
Photo: AFP
Photo: Avihu Shapira
Will turnout rate remain low?
Photo: Avihu Shapira

Voter turnout rate: Only 57%

Central Elections Committee warns: Unusually low voter turnout rate would mark 'serious blow to Israeli democracy' should current voting rates continue; Kadima and Likud concerned, Labor party optimistic

Voter turnout rate remains low: Only 57 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots by 8 p.m. Tuesday, compared to 62 percent in the 2003 elections.


Unless the voter turnout rate picks up in the next few hours, the overall turnout rate could dip below 60 percent, Central Elections Committee officials warned Tuesday evening.


"It will be a serious blow to the Israeli democracy," one Committee official said.


By 6 p.m. only 47 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, compared to 52.8 percent in the 2003 elections.


Earlier, Kadima party officials expressed growing concern over the alarmingly low turnout rate, which could hurt the frontrunner's prospects. Kadima members have been undertaking great efforts to encourage voters to hit the polls, but unsuccessfully thus far.


In order to push voters to come out, the party sent out thousands of cell phone text messages, calling on supporters to vote against what Kadima characterized as the "radical Right." The party also sent activists to crowded areas in order to encourage political debates that would push voters to hit the polls.


At this time, Kadima's declared objective is to get the support of more than one million Israelis, but at the current voting rate it appears the party would find it difficult to reach the target. In the coming hours, the party will send more activists from offices to the streets in a bid to encourage voters.


However, senior Kadima officials said that at this time the picture does not look too good for the party.


Last-ditch effort (Video: Dalit Shaham, Eddie Boy Studio; Photo: AP)


"We would have liked to see much higher turnout rates," one official said. "To our regret that's not the case, and it's worrisome."


'Come out and save Likud'


At the Likud election headquarters, party activists were also concerned by the low voter turnout. Polls conducted by the party showed that the voters stayed away from polling stations in towns and communities once considered to be Likud strongholds.


Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu called potential Likud supporters in the evening and pleaded with them to come and cast their ballot. Elections headquarters chairman Reuven Rivlin did the same, and called on party members to "come out and save the Likud."


Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu said: "It's difficult to say what would happen tonight. I hope that Likudniks come out of their houses and vote. I feel that some of them are indeed returning, but I can't say to what extent."


For Bibi, the 15-mandate line is critical if he wishes to remain party leader. If the polls prove right and the party drops below 15 Knesset seats, Netanyahu's leadership will be questioned.


Labor: We'll beat the polls


Meanwhile, Labor members expressed optimism Tuesday afternoon. Some 250 activists have been working since the early morning hours to bring voters affiliated with the party to the polling stations.


By 5 p.m., more than 50 percent of Labor supporters have cast their ballot, and at the party's election headquarters activists were very pleased with the figures. Members estimate that many more backers will show up at the polls and boost the party. Overall, senior party official feel that Labor will surprise by the end of the day and win more seats than the polls predicted.


Ronny Sofer, Attila Somfalvi, and Ilan Marciano contributed to the story


פרסום ראשון: 03.28.06, 19:37
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