Kadima, Labor and the Likud parties, the biggest three parties in Israel, are under increasing pressure fearing that the lowest voter turnout in Israel’s electoral history may hinder their political strength in the next Knesset.

The lower turnout is expected to be working in favor of smaller parties in Israel, especially the fundamental right-wing parties.

Israeli online daily Haaretz reported that this low turnout could enable such issue-based parties as the Pensioners party, which is unknown so far, to enter the Knesset for the first time ever.

Israeli media sources reported that until 6 P.M voter turnout arrived to 47% which is some five percentage points behind the general elections in 2003.

Officials at the Kadima party, formed by Ariel Sharon, started sending SMS messages urging the Israelis to go to the polls before they are closed at 10 P.M.

Kadima party officials also sent some of their activists to aid the Russian immigrant voters in differentiating between the ballot symbol of Kadima and the similar symbol of the Green Leaf Party that supports legalizing marijuana, Haaretz added.

The polling stations in Israel opened at 7 A.M, a total of 5.014.622 voters are registered to participate in the elections, Haaretz reported.

9.9%  of Israel’s registered voters had cast their ballots by 10 A.M., by noon, just 21.7% of voters had cast their ballots, which is the lowest turnout in Israeli history.

At 2 P.M., only 30.9 percent of voters had turned out compared to 35.3 percent in 2003, and by 4 P.M. 39% of eligible voters had cast ballots, compared to 44.2% in 2003.

Voter turnout in the Arab and Druze sectors was also low, Haaretz added, by mid-day, only 11 percent of voters had cast their ballots in the northern Israeli Arab town of Shfa-Amr, 1.5 percent in the Druze town Daliat al-Carmel and in Haifa, only 7.5 percent of Arabs had turned out to vote.

The total voter turnout is expected to reach 66%, which is 2% lower that the 2003 elections.
Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, called on all Israelis to vote and “shape Israel’s future”, adding that the Israelis should not wait for others to set the Israel’s fate.

Kadima party, and in spite of scoring well in polls, is expected to win 36 seats according to a survey on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Shin Bet domestic security service used strict security measures, checking all those present at the polling station for explosives, including the members of the ballot committee.

The army and police are on high alert, with thousands of police officers and Border Police men deployed all over Israel, especially in Jerusalem and along the seam line boundary with the West Bank.

All border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip have been closed, while the army tightened closure and increased military presence in the West Bank after forcing a full closure over the occupied territories and restricting the freedom of movement of the Palestinian residents.