Israelis vote again, as political crisis grinds on

JERUSALEM – Israelis began voting on Tuesday in national elections that are being held for the fifth time since 2019, hoping to break the political deadlock that has paralyzed the country for the past three and a half years.

The foremost issue once again was former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his fitness to serve amid corruption charges. His main rival is caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, a centrist who cobbled together the short-lived coalition that sent Netanyahu into the opposition last year. Opinion polls were predicting another tight race.

Polls close at 10 p.m. But official results aren’t expected until Wednesday, and the process of trying to form a new coalition government could drag on for weeks.

Although the campaign has taken on a familiar feel, a powerful new player, far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, has shaken up the race. Ben-Gvir’s Religious Zionism party appears poised to finish as the third-largest faction in parliament. If it propels Netanyahu to victory, Ben-Gvir will be pushing for an even harder line against the Palestinians.

Israelis vote for parties, not individual candidates. To become prime minister, Netanyahu, Lapid or some other politician will have to cobble together a coalition controlling a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament.

A failure to do so would set the stage for another election in early 2023. The lengthy impasse has mired Israel in an unprecedented political crisis that has eroded Israelis’ faith in their leaders and democratic institutions.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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