The Likud Party placed some 1,200 hidden cameras in polling stations in Arab communities, in order to catch fraudulent voting.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters Tuesday afternoon that cameras are necessary to “ensure a fair vote.”
“There should be cameras everywhere, not hidden ones,” he said.
Israelis went to the polls on Tuesday to vote for a national legislature. Political parties can hire their own polling-station observers. Likud confirmed to Israeli media outlets that it hired 1,200 poll workers and gave them the cameras.
Some of the cameras were body cameras hidden on observers and party activists, the others were installed in the polling stations by right-wing activists, according to reports. Dozens of cameras were confiscated by police during the morning and afternoon.
Central Elections Committee chairman Hanan Melcer, a Supreme Court justice, issued an order prohibiting filming voters inside polling stations, unless there is a specific concern about real voter fraud. Voters cannot be filmed arriving at the polling station or during voting.
Cameras are permitted after the polls close while the ballots are being counted. But everyone involved must be informed of the filming, which is then noted in the polling station’s minutes.
The head of the Arab party Balad Jamal Zahalka, in a complaint filed with the elections committee, called the cameras “an illegal measure meant to scare away voters.”
Adam Ognall of New Israel Fund UK, the British arm of the US-based group promoting social justice and equality in Israel, said: “A fair vote is a cornerstone of democratic elections and voter fraud should be tackled whether in Israel, UK or elsewhere. However the placing of hidden cameras by a single political party in the polling stations servicing a minority population, where there is a history of incitement by this party, may stoke fear and be perceived as being driven by more sinister purposes”
Hannah Weisfeld of Yachad UK, added: “This is a very disappointing development. It does not bode well for a fair election. If cameras are needed in polling stations to prevent fraudulent votes then surely this should not target one ethnic group in a democratic country?”