Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party said it hired 1,200 people with hidden cameras to film polling places Tuesday, in an effort to expose voter fraud.
The party said it sent activists into “problematic” polling locations to film the activities there. The Arab-Jewish socialist Hadash-Ta’al Party immediately lodged a complaint to the Central Elections Committee.
Committee Chairman Justice Hanan Melcer said it’s illegal to secretly film voters at the polls. Officials said several cameras were found in predominantly Arab towns and five were arrested in Rahat, as Israelis cast ballots Tuesday in national elections.
Polls are open until 10 p.m. Tuesday and so far turnout seems to be lower than it was four years ago. By noon, turnout was about 25 percent with Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party and the opposition Blue and White Party neck-and-neck. Netanyahu cast a ballot near his home in Jerusalem.
“Voting is a holy act, the very essence of democracy,” he said.
When Netanyahu was asked about the cameras, he said they should be everywhere to ensure a “kosher voting process.”
The Hadash Tal Party blamed the cameras on political opponents, saying they “understand our power well in overthrowing the government.”
“Following a number of suspected irregularities in polling stations in the northern region, the police are working in these focal points, in coordination with the Elections Committee, in order to maintain public order and prevent harm to the integrity of the elections and the secrecy of the vote,” authorities said.
Netanyahu has led the country for a decade but faces several indictments on bribery and breach of trust. He’s touted his close ties to U.S. President Donald Trump, who signed a proclamation recently declaring Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week and thanked him for returning the remains of an Israeli solider.
Gantz, a former military chief, promised Israelis a “new dawn, a new history.” He voted Tuesday in his hometown of Rosh Haayin in central Israel.
If Netanyahu is re-elected, he’s expected to form a coalition with the New Right party.
“These elections are about one thing — will Israel go back to winning ways? Will Israel support its soldiers even if they make mistakes sometimes?” New Right Party leader Naftali Bennett asked. “Our nation is wonderful and today, with the New Right, we’ll go back to winning ways.”
Early poll numbers project turnout among Arab voters will be low but Zazim, a nongovernmental organization that works for social change, aims to change that with a fleet of minibuses that will pick up voters from far flung villages in the desert. The buses are taking voters to their assigned polling location.