Israel’s 4th General Elections in 2 Yrs to Decide Netanyahu’s Fate
Netanyahu’s coalition government with centrist Defence Minister Benny Gantz collapsed in December 2020.
Israel went into its fourth general elections in two years on Tuesday, 23 March, with polling stations opening from 7 am and remaining functional till 10 pm Israeli time.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party are contesting again, with Yair Lapid, a former finance minister and the head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, emerging as the PM’s main contender.
The Israeli government is dispatching special polling stations and vehicles to allow voters to vote safely amid the pandemic. The government has accommodated for up to 15 percent of the electorate voting as part of the absentee ballot for those in quarantine.
The votes will be tallied separately in Jerusalem, reported AP.
No party has attained a majority in the Parliament in an Israeli election, and the final winner emerges after backroom coalition talks once election results are announced, reported Reuters.
Netanyahu’s coalition government with centrist Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party had collapsed in December 2020, seven months after being in power.
This time around, the latter is expected to win barely enough votes to get into parliament, after Gantz angered supporters by going back on a promise not to serve under an indicted prime minister.
WHAT PM LOYALISTS SAY
71-year-old Netanyahu is the longest serving head of government in Israel, having been in power since 2009. He has been hailed as King Bibi by loyalists, as opponents call him the ‘crime minister’, reported Reuters.
Netanyahu was internationally lauded for the country’s swift vaccine roll-out, which allowed it to re-open its economy ahead of the elections. Even on his campaign trail, the PM claimed to have turned Israel into a “vaccination nation” after securing millions of vaccine doses from Pfizer, added the report.
The Israeli PM in collaboration with then US President Donald Trump ratified the historic Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, and announced a declaration of intent with Sudan, reported Al Jazeera.
Whilst the PM has been using the successful vaccination as a campaign issue, he was criticised for his lockdown heavy COVID-19 policy, and it is to be seen what voters will remember him for on election day, added the report.
Further, Reuters reports that recent opinion polls have shown an increase in support for the Likud party in the last leg of the election campaign.
WHAT THE OPPOSITION IS SAYING
Netanyahu was the first serving PM of the country to face trial, and is accused of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate cases, reported BBC.
Opponents accuse the PM of being “unfit to rule” since he is currently on trial over multiple cases of corruption charges. Netanyahu has denied the allegations citing them to be a witch hunt, reported AP.
The Opposition claims that the PM is contesting to secure support in the Parliament in order to quash the case against him, added the report.
They also accuse him of mismanaging the COVID pandemic by failing to enforce lockdown restrictions on his political allies, leading to the spread of the virus, and an increase in the unemployment rate to double digits, according to the report.
(With inputs from AP, Reuters, Al Jazeera and BBC)
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