First ballots cast in Israel's third election in a year as diplomats vote

Turnout across 96 diplomatic missions in 77 countries fell to 66 per cent, from 69.5 per cent and 76 per cent in September and April


The first ballots have been cast in Israel’s third election in a year, as some 5,200 Israeli diplomats in 77 countries around the word cast their ballots on Wednesday and Thursday. Israel will go to the polls on March 2.

Turnout across Israel’s 96 diplomatic missions fell again, in a possible sign of what to expect when the wider public turns out on 2 March, with only 66 per cent of diplomats casting ballots. This compares to 69.5 per cent and 76 per cent in September and April 2019.

Voting began on Wednesday in New Zealand, Israel’s most easterly embassy and continued for 32 hours until the Israeli mission in San Francisco closed its doors.

In London, Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev made a tongue-in-cheek remark about Israel’s electoral gridlock on his Twitter feed, remarking that, “We do democracy at least three times better than anywhere else in the Middle East.”

Most Israeli citizens must return to Israel for election day if they wish to vote, but an exception is made for diplomats, emissaries and their families dispatched abroad by the World Zionist Organisation, the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod and the Jewish National Fund.

The poll follows inconclusive elections in April and September 2019, with incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and challenger Benny Gantz unable to form either Likud or Blue and White-led coalitions.

Voting in each mission is organised by a committee consisting of the consul and another high-ranking official, commonly a military or cultural attaché.

Once voting concludes, ballot boxes are returned to Israel, to be stored securely in the Knesset until 2 March.

Many in the Israeli foreign ministry might have been hoping that "third time’s a charm", however, things have not quite panned out that way owing to the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

The courier retrieving the ballot boxes from China will be placed in enforced 14-day quarantine period, while ballots from Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore will be transported home through the Embassy in New Delhi.

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