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And new centrist parties, along with veteran centre-left Labour, have been trying to tap into public concern about high living costs that brought hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets in the summer of 2011.
“None of the candidates is really presenting much foreign policy. We’ll never achieve a peace agreement anyway with our neighbours,” said Orly Amiel, 30, a director of a computer programming firm in Jerusalem.
Israelis voted under sunny skies, spoiled for choice by a smorgasbord of 32 parties - ranging from the marijuana legalisation “Green Leaf” party to the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism - vying for seats in the 120-member parliament.
Turnout by the afternoon was at 38.3 percent, the highest level since 1999, said the Israeli Election Committee, which was overseeing the balloting.
The array of factions and opinions in the Jewish state has created a political landscape in which no one party has ever won a parliamentary majority, making often fragile coalitions the rule.
In Even Yehuda, a town north of Tel Aviv, retired teacher Ahuva Heled, 55, and her husband Simca Heled, a 68-year-old musician, said they had always voted for Likud. Not this time.
“We voted for (Yair) Lapid because we want a different coalition,” Ahuva Heled said, referring to a former TV talk show host who now leads the new, centrist Yesh Atid party and wants to end military draft exemptions for Jewish seminary students.
“We don’t want to see Shas (in the coalition), who do nothing,” she said about an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party that has joined a succession of Israeli governments in return for state stipends for its institutions.