Netanyahu makes last minute bid to rally Right-wing Israeli voters in tight election
Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Right-wing Israelis that he is in danger of losing power if they do not rally around him, as the final polls of the election showed his party trailing its centrist rival.
The last set of public polls before Tuesday’s election showed the centrist Blue & White coalition, led by former army chief Benny Gantz, on course to win more seats than Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party.
However, the same polls also showed that Likud and other Right-wing parties would still hold a slim majority in parliament, which could be enough to give Mr Netanyahu a fifth term as Israel’s prime minister.
Blue & White is hoping to win at least four more seats than Likud and then appeal to Israel’s president to give them the first chance to form a coalition, even if their path to cobbling together a majority is unclear.
One poll released on Friday showed Blue & White winning by five seats and another showed them up by four seats. Under Israeli law, no more polls can be published before the election.
שלטון הימין בסכנה. כרגע לפיד וגנץ מובילים עלינו ב-4-5 מנדטים. אם אנשי הימין לא מתעשתים והולכים כאיש אחד לקלפי ומצביעים ליכוד – תקום כאן ממשלת שמאל של לפיד וגנץ. כדי שזאת תהיה ממשלת ליכוד, ממשלת ימין, צריך להצביע רק לליכוד pic.twitter.com/Ci8yG0VjN3
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) April 5, 2019
Mr Netanyahu seized on the polling to urge supporters of other Right-wing parties to rally around Likud. “The Right is in danger,” he said. “If those on the Right do not go to the polls as a single force and vote for Likud, a Left-wing government will arise here.”
His last-minute appeal is in some ways a replay of the last election in 2015. Polls then showed Mr Netanyahu losing to a Centre-Left challenger but he ultimately won by poaching votes from smaller Right-wing parties at the last minute.
In Israel’s political system, the president summons all the party leaders in the days after the election and asks them who they support to be prime minister.
If Mr Netanyahu’s party secures the backing of majority in parliament then he should be able to carry on as prime minister, even if his party has not won the most seats.
However, the situation becomes more complicated if Blue & White wins the most seats by a clear margin. The Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, may then feel obligated to let them try to form a government.
Yair Lapid, the deputy leader of Blue & White, said he was sure his party would lead the government if it beat Likud by four seats or more. “There’s no power on earth that will prevent us from doing so,” he said.
The largest party has formed the government after almost every single Israeli election. But in 2009, Mr Netanyahu was able to become prime minister even though Likud won one less seat than its main challenger.
Blue & White has said it will not serve in government with Mr Netanyahu, who is facing criminal corruption charges. However, there is speculation that the party could form a national unity government with Likud if a deal can be reached between the two sides.
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