As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces what is likely to be a tough re-election fight Tuesday, his Likud party has confirmed reports that it hired and gave cameras to 1,200 polling station observers in what it said was an effort to expose voter fraud, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The party's admission came after Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer said earlier Tuesday it was illegal to secretly film voters casting ballots.
Earlier Tuesday, hidden cameras were captured in several Israeli Arab towns in the north and in one in the south. The Post reported a man was caught trying to hide a camera in a location in the southern city of Rahat in an attempt to disqualify a polling station. That incident led to about five people being detained in connection with the hidden cameras, The Post reported.
Israeli election: Netanyahu's fate up for grabs as voters cast ballotsApril 9, 201902:00
The left-wing Hadash Tal and Balad parties criticized the Likud for trying to secretly film voters.
Hadash Tal claimed "the extreme Right understands our power well in overthrowing the government and has crossed every border, using illegal means in an attempt to intervene and prevent Arab citizens from voting — but we, too, understand our strength."
Balad, meanwhile, said it "received a message that right-wing activists are disrupting the electoral process in Arab towns by means of wiretapping and hidden cameras [in order] to deter the Arab public from voting. ... We do not give in to the attempts to delegitimize us."
The incidents come as Netanyahu — seeking a fifth term leading the nation — battles for political survival amid corruption allegations that he has denied. The party led by his main rival Benny Gantz, Hosen L'Yisrael, had a slight edge in final opinion polls. While Gantz, a former military chief, entered Election Day with that lead, Netanyahu is still in a strong position to form a governing coalition, The Washington Post reported.
Israel's attorney general announced in February that he planned to indict the prime minister in three corruption cases on charges of bribery and fraud and breach of trust. If Netanyahu remains in power following Tuesday's election and serves beyond July, he will become Israel's longest-serving prime minister.