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This week in Israel: today is election day

A voter
Voting in the Israeli elections. Tel Aviv, March 28. (Photo by Lisa Goldman. Click to enlarge.)

Israelis go to the polls to elect a new government today. The media have been screaming since 10 a.m. that voter turnout is at an all-time low, even though the polls don't close until 10 p.m.

Kadima, the centrist party founded by comatose-since-January prime minister Ariel Sharon, and now led by acting PM Ehud Olmert, is currently projected to win the most seats and thus form the next government. But there have also been many, many warnings that the pre-election polls are likely to prove very inaccurate because there is also a record number of undecided voters – approximately 20 percent.

As for exit polls, let us not forget that Shimon Peres “won” in 1996, based on the exit polls, but after the votes were counted Benjamin Netanyahu emerged as Israel's prime minister. Given, however, that Netanyahu's Likud party is predicted to take only 14 of the 120 Knesset (parliament) seats in these elections (the party that wins a plurality of seats usually forms a coalition with smaller parties in order to cobble together the necessary majority of at least 61 seats), the chances of him becoming prime minister in 2006 are about zero.

Below is a roundup of what the Israeli blogosphere has to say, going into the elections.

Allison Kaplan Somer is a one-woman blog show. She is updating her blog, An Unsealed Room, several times daily with election news and will continue do so as the results flow in. Keep checking back. This very experienced journalist is on a roll.

Israelycool is also doing live coverage of the elections, with constant updates.

Shai Tsur explains why he voted Kadima, despite his reservations about many of the candidates on the party's list.

I’m voting Kadima, as almost everybody knows. Is it perfect? No it isn’t. I’m not all that crazy about Olmert. I would like the party a hell of a lot better without Tzachi Hanegbi, not to mention Shaul Mofaz, Ruhama Avraham, and Eli Aflalo. But those are the breaks. If the most important thing for me was clean government, and I didn’t have an aversion for voting for small single-issue parties, I would probably cast a vote for Uzi Dayan‘s Tafnit party.

Shai and I have also been blogging about the elections for the Guardian's newsblog. His third post, “The Worrying Rise of Avigdor Lieberman”, is here; my third post, “Civility Amid the Struggle,” is here.

Niv Calderon, a new contributor to the group blog One Jerusalem (OJ), has written an excellent post that explains how the Israeli Left's core ideology was taken over by the centre-right.

Fayrouz Shaqrawi, a Palestinian-Israeli who blogs at The Land of Sad Oranges, recounts a conversation she had with two fellow Palestinian-Israelis about which parties represent their interests best, and why.

Yonathan Bar On explains why he hopes that the next government will be a Kadima-Labour coalition.

Rinat describes the election day atmosphere in Tel Aviv, as well as the total exhaustion she feels as a journalist who is covering the elections for three different media outlets.

Don Radlauer explains, in a very well-reasoned post, why this election should be viewed as a referundum on unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

West Bank Blog explains why she is voting for Likud - and why everyone who doesn't follow her example has her head stuck in the sand.

And Jameel of The Muqata gives his interpretation of each of the major party's platforms before explaining why he, too, is voting Likud.

I posted two sets of photos of the elections, taken in Tel Aviv, on my Flickr account – here and here.

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