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Israel votes in 3rd general election in a yr (Ld)

Jerusalem, March 2 (IANS) Israelis went to the polls on Monday for a third vote within a year in the country’s parliamentary elections, hoping to break the deadlock that has paralyzed the nation’s political system.

Nearly 6.5 million Israelis aged 18 years or older were to cast their ballots in more than 11,000 polling stations which opened at 7 a.m., until 10 pm, Efe news reported

A national holiday has been declared and public transportation made free to facilitate the right to vote. Exit polls will be released once the polling stations close.

The Times of Israel quoted Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, the Director-General of the Health Ministry, as saying that Israelis should not hesitate to go out and vote in Monday’s national elections, and should not be deterred by the deadly coronavirus.

He said the coronavirus situation in the country was under control and added that 16 special polling stations were set up for the 5,630 people who are under home quarantine after returning from foreign trips.

These tents will be manned by staff wearing protective gear while those in isolation will not be allowed to use public transport and would have to cast their vote using a disposable pen, gloves and masks.

The election campaign has been marked by voter apathy and major parties exchanging unpleasant attacks in recent days, Efe news said in its report.

Surveys show hardly any changes to the electoral results of April and September 2019, when the different parties were unable to reach an agreement on forming a coalition government.

The two main parties in the fray include incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and the Blue and White alliance led by his centre-right opponent, Benny Gantz.

Twenty-nine parties were running, but no more than eight are likely to break the 3.25 per cent electoral threshold needed to enter the Knesset or Parliament, The Times of Israel added in its report.

But neither of the two main groups was predicted to win enough seats for a parliamentary majority in the Knesset (Parliament) and might need to enter into a coalition.

However, even with their possible allies – the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties for Likud and the left-wing parties and external support of the Arabs for Blue and White – the two alliances might again fail to secure the 61 seats needed to form a government.

Although former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party may have a chance to tip the scales to one side or the other.

There have been two new developments since the last two elections.

While Netanyahu has now been formally charged with corruption, the second factor which could work in his favor with the moderate right-wingers, is the US’ peace plan to give free access to the annexation of the West Bank, a proposal rejected by the Palestinians.

On Sunday night, Facebook removed a video posted by Netanyahu’s campaign in which the leader spoke about recent polls that gave him more seats than all the previous ones, thereby violating a law that prohibits the publication of polling data in the last three days before to an election.

–IANS

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