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Political crisis leads to trio of Israel elections

23 February 2020, MVT 09:41
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a meeting of the right-wing bloc at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on November 20, 2019. (Photo by GALI TIBBON / AFP)
23 February 2020, MVT 09:41

Israel is headed for a third general election in a year as it seeks to resolve one of its worst-ever political crises.

The first two polls in April and September 2019 failed to find a winner between rightist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist challenger Benny Gantz.

Here is a recap of the saga.

April impasse

At April 9 polls, Netanyahu, Israel's longest serving prime minister who has been in power since 2009, hopes to get re-elected despite being dogged by corruption allegations.

Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and the Blue and White alliance of ex-military chief Gantz come neck and neck.

Parliament chooses Netanyahu, who has support from smaller right-wing parties, to take first turn at trying to form a majority government.

But after weeks of political bargaining, he is unable to command a majority in the 120-seat parliament.

The deadline expires and parliament agrees to hold a new election.

September duel

After voting ends on September 17, exit polls show another neck-and-neck race between the parties of Netanyahu and Gantz.

In a surprise bid on September 19, Netanyahu proposes a unity government to Gantz, who replies he would have to be the prime minister.

Complete official results released on September 25 confirm a deadlock, putting Gantz's party at 33 seats against Likud's 32.

Even with their respective allies, neither can get the 61 seats they need for a majority.

Netanyahu fails

On September 25, President Reuven Rivlin tasks Netanyahu with forming a government within 28 days.

Gantz refuses to join Netanyahu, citing his potential indictment on corruption charges.

On October 21, Netanyahu announces he has failed. Rivlin hands the task to Gantz.

Gantz gives up

On November 8, Netanyahu appoints as defence minister Naftali Bennett and says his New Right party will join Likud.

This gives Netanyahu's party 35 seats -- two ahead of Gantz's Blue and White.

On November 20, Gantz informs Rivlin hours before his deadline is up that he too has been unable to form a government.

The president, determined to avoid a third election, hands the task to parliament with a three-week deadline.

While it could choose any member of parliament to form a government, Netanyahu and Gantz remain the only realistic contenders.

Netanyahu charged

On November 21, the attorney general charges Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It is the first time a sitting prime minister is put on trial in the country.

He rejects the allegations, saying it is an attempt to remove him from government.

On December 11, as the deadline passes for parliament to find a head of government, lawmakers call a new election for March 2.

Jerusalem, Undefined | AFP

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