International

Israelis vote in 3rd election in a year

Leader of Blue and White party, Benny Gantz stands behind a booth as he votes in Israel's national election at a polling station in Rosh Ha'ayin, Israel March 2, 2020.

Leader of Blue and White party, Benny Gantz stands behind a booth as he votes in Israel's national election at a polling station in Rosh Ha'ayin, Israel March 2, 2020.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Netanyahu is desperate to score a narrow 61-seat majority in parliament with his hard-line religious and nationalist allies before heading to trial two weeks later

Israelis began voting Monday in the country’s unprecedented third election in less than a year to decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power despite his upcoming criminal trial on corruption charges.

Netanyahu, the longest serving leader in Israeli history, has been the caretaker prime minister for more than a year as a divided Israel has weathered two inconclusive elections and a prolonged political paralysis.

With opinion polls forecasting another deadlock, Netanyahu is seeking a late surge in support to score a parliamentary majority along with other nationalist parties that will deliver him a fourth consecutive term in office, and fifth overall.

Also read: Explained | Why is Israel holding its third election in a year?

Both parties appear unable to form a coalition with their traditional allies. With the prospect of a unity government between them seemingly off the table after a particularly nasty campaign, Monday’s vote may well turn into merely a preamble to another election.

There was little fanfare in the days leading up to the vote, with a noticeable absence of campaign posters on the streets and public rallies that typically characterize to run-up to Israeli elections. With voter fatigue clearly a factor, turnout could prove to be decisive. Election day is a national holiday in Israel and the country usually boasts one of the highest voter turnouts among Western democracies. But the three-repeat vote and fears of the new coronavirus, which has so far has been kept largely in check, look to hinder turnout.

Israel set up some 15 stations to allow voting by hundreds of Israelis who have been ordered to remain in home-quarantine after possible exposure to the virus.

Also read: Editorial | A second election for Israel

Netanyahu is desperate to score a narrow 61-seat majority in parliament with his hard-line religious and nationalist allies before heading to trial two weeks later. Netanyahu has failed to secure himself immunity from prosecution, but with a strong hold on power he could seek other avenues to derail the legal proceedings against him.

Netanyahu goes on trial March 17 for charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from accusations he accepted lavish gifts from billionaire friends and promised to promote advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in exchange for favorable coverage. He vowed he will prove his innocence in court.

Opinion polls forecast similar results to the previous two stalemates, and the deadlock raises the possibility of a fourth election in quick succession.

Polling stations opened across the country at 7 a.m. Monday with exit polls expected at the end of the voting day at 10 p.m. (20-00 GMT) Official results are projected to come in overnight.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 10:30:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/israelis-vote-in-3rd-election-in-a-year/article30962159.ece

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