Early voting for Israeli diplomats and staff at the country’s embassies abroad began on Thursday morning, with the envoy to New Zealand casting the first vote for the second time since taking up the post.
Ambassador Ran Yaakoby voted at a booth set up for diplomatic staff at the embassy in Wellington, Israel’s easternmost diplomatic outpost, which opened at 11 p.m. Wednesday Israel time.
The election for the 25th Knesset is Israel’s fifth general election in four years and Yaakoby voiced some of the exasperation felt by Israelis who have lived under a series of fleeting governments and caretaker administrations since 2019.
“Last year, I expressed hope that this would be my first and last vote during my four-year term and that the elected government would be stable and successful, Yaakoby said. “This year too, I offer this hope for us all.”
Following New Zealand, 103 other ballot stations are being opened at 101 embassies and missions abroad, with the final votes taking place in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Voting will end on Friday.
The New York consulate, with 750 eligible voters, will host three ballot stations alone. The embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon, meanwhile, will host a ballot box for just three eligible voters there, according to the Central Elections Committee.
Votes will be cast for the first time in Manama, Bahrain, and Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, where Israel has opened embassies since the last election un March 2021.
According to the Foreign Ministry, some 4,500 Israelis are eligible to vote abroad, including diplomats, representatives of other government ministries, the military and police and their families.
Private citizens living abroad cannot vote unless they come to Israel, where the election will take place on November 1, though many soldiers on active duty will be able to vote as early as next week.
According to the Central Elections Committee, 6,788,804 eligible voters will be able to cast votes at 11,707 ballot stations, plus several hundred more at hospitals, prisons, old age homes and for those in isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the 2021 election, Israel added 4,000 extra polling stations to reduce crowding due to the pandemic, bringing the total to some 15,000.
Over 210,000 people were added to the voter roles since the last election.
The election was called in June after Naftali Bennett handed the reins of his collapsing government to Prime Minister Yair Lapid after just over a year in power.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is widely forecast to garner the most votes, but most polls show a veritable deadlock between pro- and anti-Netanyahu camps persisting.