Israeli PM Netanyahu Orders Early Elections

World | October 10, 2012, Wednesday // 08:44|  views

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, citing security and economic reasons, announces in a statement delivered in his Jerusalem offices, Israel, 09 October 2012, that he is taking the country into early general elections. EPA/BGNES

Israel's Prime Minsiter Benyamin Netanyahu has ordered new parliamentary elections in early 2013, roughly eight months ahead of schedule.

Netanyahu is thus believed to be setting the stage for a quick campaign that will likely win him re-election, international media have commented.

Netanyahu has presided over a conservative coalition for almost four years. In a nationally televised address, Netanyahu said he was forced to call the snap polls after his coalition could not agree on a budget.

"I have decided that it is in Israel's better interest to go to elections now and as quickly as possible," he said. "For Israel, it is preferable to have as short a campaign as possible, one of three months over one that would last in practice an entire year and damage Israel's economy."

With no viable alternative on the horizon, Netanyahu is expected to easily be re-elected as prime minister.

The next vote had been scheduled for a full year from now, although speculation had been growing for weeks that the current government's days were numbered and that Netanyahu would call for an early vote.

The immediate reason for the snap elections was the coalition's inability to pass a 2013 budget by a Dec. 31 deadline, but Netanyahu has long been rumored to be leaning toward elections, given his high standings in opinion polls, the lack of a clear rival and fears the economy could weaken next year.

A recent poll in the Haaretz daily found that 35% of Israelis believe Netanyahu is most suited to being prime minister, more than double that of his closest rival, Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich. The survey questioned 507 people and had a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points.

Netanyahu said he spent Tuesday holding talks with his coalition partners and "came to the conclusion that at this time it is not possible to pass a responsible budget."

He listed his accomplishments, saying his government had boosted security at a time of regional turmoil and improved the economy despite the global economic meltdown.

Parliament reconvenes next week for its winter session without the annual budget in place. At that time, Netanyahu is expected to formally dissolve parliament.

Opinion polls put Netanyahu's Likud Party far ahead of its rivals. But the election results could alter the makeup of his coalition government, which is currently comprised mostly by religious and nationalist parties.

In the 120-seat parliament, no single party controls a majority, resulting in the need for coalition governments usually headed by the leader of the biggest party.

The Labor Party is running a distant second, having seen its support grow after mass social protests against the country's high cost of living. Its leader, Yachimovich, who is a former journalist, is running solely on jobs and the economy.

Yachimovich, who has vowed to capitalize on the growing gaps between rich and poor in the coming election, tends to favor a strong government safety net, while Netanyahu favors more conservative, free-market policies.

After Netanyahu's announcement, Yachimovich said there was a "reasonable probability" of winning.

"The public today understands that security is not just on the borders but is also job and income security and health and education security," she said.

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Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Israel PM, Labor Party, Shelly Yachimovich, Likud


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