Tel Aviv (AP) – The parliamentary elections in Israel showed a lower turnout. As the Central Electoral Commission announced, that was 25.4 percent in the afternoon. In the vote a year ago, it was then more than two percentage points higher.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for active participation in the vote. He is aiming for re-election. His right-wing Likud party led the polls despite losses. His biggest opponent, Future Party opposition leader Jair Lapid, described the vote as the “moment of truth”.
Israel has been in a permanent political crisis for more than two years. After two elections in 2019, Netanyahu failed to form a government. After the 2020 elections, he and his Likud, impressed by the Corona crisis, formed a coalition with the center alliance Blau-Weiß, but it broke up in December over a budget dispute.
The first predictions were expected the evening after the polling stations closed around 9 p.m. The polling station did not expect the preliminary final results until Friday. Due to the Corona crisis, special security rules applied, in Israel there is no postal vote like in Germany. Infected people voted in special polling stations. Travelers could choose at Ben Gurion Airport. In all, about 6.6 million people were called to determine the 120 members of the 24th Knesset in Jerusalem. The turnout in March 2020 was 71.5 percent, higher than in the two previous elections.
As he voted, Netanyahu said, “This is a holiday for Israel, a day of joy and smiles.” The 71-year-old again announced direct flights for pilgrims from Israel to Mecca on election day. He had already tried to win over Arab Israelis during the election campaign. Otherwise, he mainly wanted to score points with the rapid corona vaccination campaign in Israel. However, many citizens were dissatisfied with his crisis management during the pandemic. Infections in Israel were at times significantly higher than in Germany, and civilians had to come to terms with lengthy lockdown phases. Netanyahu is also under pressure over a corruption case against him. He has been Prime Minister since 2009.
According to the polls, forming a government could be difficult this time too. Netanyahu is committed to forming a coalition of right-wing and religious parties. But it’s unclear whether he can get a majority for it. It will also be difficult for the anti-Netanyahu camp to reach the necessary 61-member majority in parliament. This threatens to stalemate and a new election in the summer cannot be ruled out.
The party landscape in Israel is very fragmented and often very interested. Even if they come from one camp, parties are often incompatible with alliances. In addition to programmatic differences, this is also due to personal hostilities. Netanyahu’s relationship with other right-wing main characters such as Naftali Bennett, Gideon Saar and Avigdor Lieberman is considered very bad.
The result of the right-wing Jamina party, which is settler-friendly, plays a special role. According to experts, she could be the kingmaker. Jamina Chairman Bennett started with the goal of replacing Netanyahu. However, he does not rule out entering into a coalition with the latter.