(AA) – Nearly six million Israelis will head to the polls on Tuesday to elect 120 members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) amid a dead heat between the incumbent Likud party and the Zionist Union alliance.
Likud is headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while the Zionist Union is an alliance between the centrist Labor and Hatnuah parties led by MK Isaac Herzog and former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni respectively.
Israel’s official electoral commission said the number of eligible voters for the 20th Knesset vote stood at 5,881,696, who would cast their ballots at 10,372 polling stations nationwide.
The commission has stressed that Israel’s elections system effectively guarantees the right to vote to every Israeli citizen 18 and above, and the right to compete for a parliamentary seat to every citizen 21 and above.
“Voters located 20km or more from their designated polling station will be allowed to use public transportation at the government’s expense,” the commission said.
According to Israeli law, Election Day is an official holiday, on which polling stations open at 7am and close at 10pm.
Israel’s first Knesset elections were held in 1949. The last were held in early 2013 and saw voter turnout of 67 percent.
Twenty-six lists will compete in Tuesday’s election, but opinion polls indicate that only 11 of these will likely exceed the 3.25-percent electoral threshold.
Official election results will be announced Thursday, according to the electoral commission.
After the announcement of results, the Israeli president will hold negotiations with party leaders for one week, after which he will task one of them with drawing up a cabinet.
Traditionally, the president tasks the head of the party that won the most votes to form the cabinet, provided it receives the endorsement of at least 61 of the Knesset’s 120 members.
The assembly will hold its first session 14 days after Election Day, according to the electoral commission.
Knesset elections are held every four years, but the assembly can dissolve itself before the expiration of its term through a simple majority vote.
In a statement, Israeli Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said: “Police have concluded its assessment of the situation on the field across the country, completing its preparations and arrangements to deploy its troops on Election Day.”
“On Tuesday morning,” she said, “police forces will be deployed at every polling station across the country to guarantee the safety and integrity of the electoral process.”
She added: “Police will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to any illegal protests or attempts to incite any racist remarks of any kind, while working on enabling citizens to exercise their voting rights.”
Competition between Netanyahu’s Likud and the Zionist Union alliance is expected to be fierce, recent polls indicate.