Turnout in Israel’s elections has exceeded expectations despite bad weather and fears over voter apathy.
A total of 30 parties are vying for 120 seats in the Knesset. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, had established a lead in opinion polls. However, the margin has diminished in recent weeks and Likud appears to be in a tight race with the biggest party in the outgoing government, Kadima. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni tried and failed to form a government in September, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stepped down amid corruption allegations. The once-dominant Labour party is struggling in fourth place in the polls. Led by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, the centre-left party has suffered from a shift to the right brought on by security fears and the recent Gaza conflict. The ultra-right Ysrael Beiteinu party of Avigdor Lieberman has drawn on growing support for its tough stance on Palestinians to move into third place in opinion polls.