VIDEO - The Central Elections committee announced that 50.3% of Israeli citizens eligible to vote in Tuesday's general elections have exercised their right to do so by 6 pm, marking an increase in voter turnout from the 2006 elections (47.2%).
The turnout rate dispelled fears that the inclement weather would keep potential voters indoors.
Judge Eliezer Rivlin, chairman of the Central Elections Committee, said that "the elections are being held as planned and this is celebration of democracy.
"I would be more satisfied with a higher voter turnout, although it has been higher than in the previous elections so far. This shows the public is mature, and this day can be summarized as a boring day, which is a positive thing," he added.
Political party leaders cast their vote for Israel's 18th Knesset shortly after the polling stations opened all across the country at 7 am.
Allegations of voting irregularities surfaced just hours after the polling stations opened. The Meretz party filed a complaint with the Central Elections Committee claiming the party's ballots at a Jerusalem polling station were tampered with.
Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni voted at a polling station near her home in Tel Aviv's Ramat Hahayal neighborhood.
"I know that many more people will vote for Kadima," she said, "the most important thing is not to lose hope."
'Don't vote out of fear'Livni called on Israel's citizens to carry out their civic duty, saying "rain or shine, you stand behind the curtain at the polling station, close your eyes and imagine – not out of fear or desperation – how you would like to feel once the election results are announced."
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert voted at a school in Jerusalem, but did not speak to reporters.
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who voted at a polling station near his home in Nokdim, called on "all of Israel's citizens - Christians, Muslims and Jews" to go out and vote, adding "those who have followed the election campaign know that there is one party that can get the job done."
Many Israelis, however, are taking advantage of the Election Day holiday to rest.
Addressing the possibility of a low voter turnout due to inclement weather conditions, Lieberman said "people will vote even during a hurricane."
(Photos: Reuters, Yaron Brener, Gil Yohanan)
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef voted in Jerusalem's Kiryat Moshe neighborhood. The rabbi was accompanied by Eli Yishai, the chairman of the haredi party, who said "we have a good feeling and a lot of faith. We hope (Likud leader) Benjamin Netanyahu forms the next government and that Shas will grow stronger.
"A vote for Shas is a blessing. God willing, we will win more mandates than in the previous election," he said.
Yishai later voted at a polling station in the capital's Har Nof neighborhood.
'Proud to be living in democratic country'
President Shimon Peres said after voting at the Jerusalem High School for the Arts, "I am proud to be living in a democratic country and to be a Jew who respects others.
"Anyone who wants to strengthen Israeli democracy should go out and vote," he said, "this is a day of celebration."
Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron said after casting his vote in Kibbutz Lahav, "Today's elections are about the future of Israeli society's education, security and economy."
He called on left-wing voters to "come home to Meretz."
Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, voted in Haifa Tuesday morning and stressed that a vote for his party can only boost Netanyahu's chances to win the general elections.
Pensioners Party Chairman Rafi Eitan cast his vote in Tel Aviv and said he was "optimistic" as to his party's chances to win Knesset seats. He called on his public to exercise their right to vote despite the cold weather.