In Israel’s 72-year history, no single-party candidate slate has been able to form a ruling majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Israel went to the polls for the fourth election in less than two years, with the nation still divided over whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deserves to stay in office.
Polling stations were opening across Israel and the occupied West Bank, with some 6.5 million registered voters poised to produce a result that could prolong the worst period of political deadlock in the country’s history.
Israelis vote for parties, not for individual candidates. In Israel’s 72-year history, no single-party candidate slate has been able to form a ruling majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Netanyahu has presented himself as a world statesman uniquely qualified to lead the country through its many security and diplomatic challenges.
He made Israel’s coronavirus vaccination campaign the centerpiece of his re-election bid and highlighted last year’s diplomatic deals with four Arab states.
Opponents accuse Netanyahu of screwing up the handling of the coronavirus pandemic for most of the past year.
They say he has failed to enforce lockdown restrictions on his ultra-Orthodox political allies, allowing the virus to spread, and point to the still dire state of the economy and its twin unemployment rate. figures. They also say Netanyahu is unable to speak out at a time when he is on trial on multiple corruption charges, a case he dismisses as a witch hunt.
Tuesday’s election was sparked by the disintegration of an emergency government formed last May between Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz to handle the coronavirus pandemic. The alliance has been engulfed in infighting and the election was called by the government’s failure in December last year to agree on a budget.
What do the polls say?
Analysts expect voter fatigue to contribute to a drop in voter turnout, which was 71% in the last election a year ago.
Netanyahu’s religious and nationalist allies tend to be highly motivated voters.
In contrast, Palestinian citizens of Israel, disappointed by the disintegration of the umbrella “Common List” party, are expected to stay at home in greater numbers this time around. Voters in the more liberal and secular regions around Tel Aviv also tend to have lower turnout.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud is expected to become the largest party, but falling short of a 120-seat Knesset majority and unable to easily form a coalition government – similar to the three previous elections.
This means that Israel is considering three possible outcomes: another coalition under Netanyahu, an ideologically divided government united only by its opposition to him, or an impending fifth election.
While polls show a small majority of Israelis want Netanyahu removed from office, the fragmented opposition also has no clear path to power, with no agreed candidate to lead the anti-Netanyahu camp.
Actual results will start to trickle through overnight through Wednesday, but final results are expected around Friday.