Israelis began voting in their fourth election in two years Tuesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes the spread of the country’s coronavirus vaccine will propel him through an era of unprecedented political paralysis and into a stable majority.
But Netanyahu, the leading politician of his generation, is a big figure in Israel. And for the first time opponents from across the political spectrum are waiting to end the long reign of “King Bibi”.
FOUR ELECTIONS? WHAT IS THIS ONLY?
Same with the last three, except coronavirus.
Netanyahu, 71, is running under a cloud of corruption charges, which he denies. His trial on allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust has already begun and is expected to resume in April.
Moreover, the Israeli economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, with public anger over the way Netanyahu handled the crisis, until vaccinations began in December. .
Netanyahu’s new slogan is “Vaccination Nation” and he says he is the only one who could have accomplished such an inoculation program so quickly.
Israel’s longest-serving leader has also broken Israeli diplomacy since August with the Gulf countries, Morocco and Sudan, all shattered by the United States.
WHAT DO THE COMMENTARY POLICIES TAKE?
Netikahu’s right-wing Likud is expected to emerge as the largest party, but falls short of a majority in the Knesset (parliament) with 120 seats and the inability to easily form a coalition government – similar to the three elections before.
While studies show that a small majority of Israelis want to see Netanyahu out of office, the separatist opponents also lack a clear path to power, with no single candidate agreed to lead the camp. against Netanyahu.
Voting began at 7am and the three main TV stations in polls left an airline at 10pm on Tuesday. The actual results will start rolling in overnight until Wednesday but final results are expected around Friday.
Results have often been different from exit censuses.
WHO ARE THE NETANYAHU RULES?
In the last three elections Netanyahu’s rivals came from the left. This time he also faces a new challenge from right-wing rivals.
Former finance minister and TV host Yair Lapid, 57, leads the center-left Yesh Atid party – “There is a future”. His party, which is currently against him, is expected to come second after Likud.
Gideon Saar, 54, a former cabinet minister who resigned as Likud formed the New Hope party, voted to end Netanyahu’s rule. Like Likud, his party opposes Palestinian statehood, although the Saar campaign has focused on clean government and starting the economy.
Former Netanyahu supporter Naftali Bennett, 48, is a cabinet minister and high-tech millionaire who heads the ultra-hawkish Yamina party and is traveling with Saar to become the next leader on the right of Israel.
Positioning himself as the maker of a potential king, Bennett has refused to pledge an alliance against Netanyahu or the pro-Netanyahu camp, and none of them could form a government without his support, according to opinion polls.
Benny Gantz, 61, a former general at which the Blue & White party was torn apart after he joined Netanyahu in a coalition. He argued that a government of national unity was needed, but many of his heart’s supporters were angry. His interest is declining and polls suggest his party may not win any seats.
The Israeli party has never won an overall majority in parliament, forcing larger parties to form ruling coalitions with smaller alliances.
It is expected to give a longer-than-usual final count due to the number of absentee votes and the start of the Easter holidays next Sunday, usually a working day. Unlike previous elections, people ill with coronavirus or quarantine cast “double envelope” votes with Israeli diplomats abroad, soldiers and prisoners. These take longer to count as they are sent to Jerusalem for reporting.
After the election, the Israeli president will meet with the party leaders and choose the party he deems most capable of forming a coalition. That party, which is usually but not always the largest group, then has four weeks to form a coalition. A new government will be given a four-year term, but disagreements between coalition parties often lead to early elections.
If both sides cannot form a coalition, the country’s two-year political crisis could lead to a fifth election.