Israelis go to the polls to decide on Netanyahu’s record reign, Latest World News - The New Paper

Israelis go to the polls to decide on Netanyahu’s record reign

This article is more than 12 months old

JERUSALEM: Israelis began voting in an election yesterday that could hand conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a record fifth term or see him dethroned by an ex-general who has pledged a clean government and social cohesion.

Polling stations opened at 7am (12pm Singapore time) across the country and closed at 10 pm (3am Singapore time). But the victor may not be decided immediately. No party has ever won an outright majority in the 120-seat Parliament, meaning days or even weeks of coalition negotiations lie ahead.


Dubbed "King Bibi", Mr Netanyahu has rallied a rightist camp hardened against the Palestinians and played up Israeli foreign policy boons that are the fruit of his ties with the Trump administration.

But the 69-year-old Likud party leader's hope of overtaking Israel's founding father, Mr David Ben-Gurion, as the longest-serving premier in July has been dented by a looming graft indictment.

He denies any wrongdoing.

Critics warn of "Bibi fatigue" and argue that the parliamentary election should bring fresh faces to high office.

Stalking Mr Netanyahu in the opinion polls has been Mr Benny Gantz, a former chief of the armed forces and centrist political novice. Mr Gantz, 59, has sought to push back against Mr Netanyahu's self-styled image as unrivalled in national security.

With broadcast and traditional media outlets off-limits for campaigning on election day, Mr Netanyahu posted a link on Twitter and Facebook and called for voters to get in touch.

Mr Gantz, taking a different approach, shared a video of himself at the voting station set to music, without any direct comments.

After the election, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin will consult the leaders of every party represented in the Israeli Parliament and select the person he believes has the best chance of forming a government.

Both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gantz have publicly ruled out a future alliance in a "national unity" coalition, but some analysts predict a rethink, especially if the candidates agree to tackle together a widely expected US plan for Middle East peace. - REUTERS