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Spotlight: Israeli voters return to polls in 2nd election in 1 year

Source: Xinhua| 2019-09-17 22:40:56|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Keren Setton

JERUSALEM, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Israelis returned to the polls on Tuesday in the second election held this year to decide whether sitting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, will continue his fifth term as leader.

The latest polls at the end of last week showed a deadlock between main political blocs, meaning there could be a third election.

Over 6 million Israelis are eligible to vote in almost 11,000 polling stations scattered around the country.

There was fear that voter apathy to an election so soon after the previous one would lead to a low turnout. However, in the opening hours, voter turnout was higher than the last election.

Many Israelis voted and then took advantage of the day off given to them by the election law.

According to tourism authorities, national parks were packed, as were shopping malls. Many people could be seen in public parks having picnics.

This election, similar to the last one held in April, is largely about Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister.

The election sees Israel as divided into two main camps: those who want to see him stay and those who prefer someone else at the helm.

"I voted Likud because I want a right-wing government and a strong Israel and I want Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) to be the prime minister," said Chaya Dvora Sharon, a voter.

His recent years as prime minister have been clouded by allegations of corruption. In the coming weeks, he will be given a pre-trial hearing with the attorney general who will then determine if he will be indicted for three separate counts of corruption.

According to Israeli law, a sitting prime minister is not obligated to resign if indicted and can stay in power until a final supreme court ruling is handed down.

"I'm afraid that Netanyahu has been here and done wonderful things but he has come to the point where it's time for him to leave and for others to take the reins," said Yehuda Gellman after he voted.

"The existence of our country does not depend on one particular person. We will keep going (and) we will do the best we can," he added.

Publicly, Likud party members have supported Netanyahu throughout his tribulations, but should they feel that his presence is the only thing keeping them from forming the next government, there might be an internal revolt against him.

Blue and White party, led by Benny Gantz, has said they have no objection to forming a unity government with the Likud but without Netanyahu as it's leader. Their campaign has focused on the allegations against the Israeli prime minister.

For some Israelis, the criminal suspicions are enough to make the prime minister unwanted.

"I voted for Benny Gantz and I voted for a change and I voted for the non-criminal figures," said Gila Kantor, who just left a polling station in central Jerusalem.

But Netanyahu, a dominant figure in the Israeli political arena for many years, still has staunch supporters.

"He is the best ever," said Yona Daniel, while having a barbecue with his family at a Jerusalem park. "He is being framed!"

"Bibi cannot be replaced. At the moment there is no one who can replace him," said another couple at the park.

According to the polls, both parties will have a difficult time forming a coalition government, identical to the last election results.

The divisiveness that characterizes the Israeli society is reflected in the fragmented political system.

The chances of an unstable political future are not slim and there is even a possibility that Israelis will go to the polls for a third time.

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