Israelis go to polls again as Netanyahu tries to cling to power
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Israelis go to polls again as Netanyahu tries to cling to power

Israel's longest serving prime minister looks to secure another term in power despite a looming indictment on corruption charges

  • Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, arrives to cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX
    Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, arrives to cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX
  • Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, seen after he cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019.. Photo by: JINIPIX
    Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, seen after he cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019.. Photo by: JINIPIX
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara Netanyahu (L) cast their ballots during the Israeli legislative elections, at a polling station in Jerusalem, 17 September 2019. . Photo by: Alex kolomoisky-JINIPIX
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his wife Sara Netanyahu (L) cast their ballots during the Israeli legislative elections, at a polling station in Jerusalem, 17 September 2019. . Photo by: Alex kolomoisky-JINIPIX
  • President Reuven Rivlin casts his ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem, during the Knesset Elections, on September 17, 2019.. Photo by: JINIPIX
    President Reuven Rivlin casts his ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem, during the Knesset Elections, on September 17, 2019.. Photo by: JINIPIX
  • Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, seen after he cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX
    Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, seen after he cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX
  • Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, prepares to cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019. . Photo by: JINIPIX
    Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, prepares to cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019. . Photo by: JINIPIX
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to cast his ballot during the Israeli legislative elections, at a polling station in Jerusalem, 17 September 2019. Israelis are heading to the polls for a second general election, following the prior elections in April 2019, to elect the 120 members of the 22nd Knesset, or parliament. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, about six million people are eligible to vote. Photo by: Alex kolomoisky-JINIPIX
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to cast his ballot during the Israeli legislative elections, at a polling station in Jerusalem, 17 September 2019. Israelis are heading to the polls for a second general election, following the prior elections in April 2019, to elect the 120 members of the 22nd Knesset, or parliament. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, about six million people are eligible to vote. Photo by: Alex kolomoisky-JINIPIX
  • President Reuven Rivlin casts his ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem, during the Knesset Elections, on September 17, 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX
    President Reuven Rivlin casts his ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem, during the Knesset Elections, on September 17, 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX
  • Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, prepares to cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019.  Photo by: JINIPIX
    Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, prepares to cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX

Israelis are voting in an unprecedented repeat election that will decide whether long-time prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power despite a looming indictment on corruption charges.

Mr Netanyahu, the longest serving leader in Israeli history, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, and his fifth overall.

He faces a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Mr Netanyahu’s Likud.

Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, potentially forcing them into a unity government.

Mr Netanyahu has tried to portray himself as a statesman who is uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times, but Mr Gantz has tried to paint him as divisive and scandal-plagued, offering himself as a calming influence and an honest alternative.

The vote is their second showdown of the year after drawing even in the previous election in April.

Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance, arrives to cast his vote during the Israeli legislative elections, in Rosh Haayin, Israel, 17 September 2019. . Photo by: JINIPIX

Mr Netanyahu appeared poised to remain in office at the time, with his traditional allies of nationalist and ultra-religious Jewish parties controlling a parliamentary majority.

But Avigdor Lieberman, his mercurial ally-turned-rival, refused to join the new coalition, citing excessive influence it granted the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Without a parliamentary majority, Mr Netanyahu dissolved parliament and called a new election.

Opinion polls have forecast similar results this time, potentially putting Mr Lieberman in the role of kingmaker again.

After voting on Tuesday, Mr Lieberman reiterated his promise to force a unity government between Likud and Blue and White. He said there will not be a third round of elections and the parties will have to deal with the “constellation” that emerges from this vote.

The performance by the Soviet-born politician’s Yisrael Beitenu party is one of the factors that could determine Mr Netanyahu’s future.

The leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) right-wing nationalist party Avigdor Liberman votes with is wife Ella in the settlement of Nokdim, West Bank, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Photo by: JINIPIX

Opinion polls have forecast similar results this time around, potentially putting Mr Lieberman in the role of kingmaker.

The performance by the Soviet-born politician’s Yisrael Beitenu party is just one of the factors that could determine Mr Netanyahu’s future. Several small parties are fighting to squeak past the minimum 3.25% threshold for entering parliament.

The performances of these parties could make or break Mr Netanyahu’s ability to form a coalition. Heavier turnout by Arab voters, many of whom stayed home in April, could also hurt Mr Netanyahu.

President Reuven Rivlin casts his ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem, during the Knesset Elections, on September 17, 2019.. Photo by: JINIPIX

Several small parties are fighting to edge past the minimum 3.25% threshold for entering parliament. The performances of these parties could make or break Mr Netanyahu’s ability to form a coalition. Heavier turnout by Arab voters, many of whom stayed home in April, could hurt him.

He is desperate to secure a narrow 61-seat majority in parliament with his hardline religious and nationalist allies who are expected to approve legislation that would grant Mr Netanyahu immunity from prosecution.

Israel’s attorney general has recommended pressing criminal charges against him in three separate corruption cases, pending a long delayed pre-trial hearing scheduled next month.

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