Israeli vote in balance as campaigning draws to close
Three days ahead of Israel's general election, there was growing uncertainty on Saturday over who will win the premiership even as polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trailing his centre-left rivals.
Jerusalem: Three days ahead of Israel's general election, there was growing uncertainty on Saturday over who will win the premiership even as polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trailing his centre-left rivals.
The final two voting surveys released Friday night by private television channels gave the Zionist Union, headed by Labour leader Isaac Herzog, a four-seat lead over Netanyahu's Likud.
A poll by Channel 10 showed Likud winning 20 seats compared with 24 for the Zionist Union while a survey issued by Channel 2 also showed Likud four seats behind, 22 to 26.
The results echoed surveys released earlier Friday -- the final day that opinion polls could legally be published before the March 17 election -- which both predicted a win for the Zionist Union.
But Israel's complex electoral system, where many parties are vying for power, means the task of forming a new government does not automatically fall to the winning candidate or list.
Israel's new prime minister will be the one who can build a coalition commanding a parliamentary majority in the 120-strong Knesset -- at least 61 seats.
That task will be all the harder as there are at least 11 party lists to reckon with from across the political spectrum as well as ultra-Orthodox and Arab parties.
Under the proportional system, voters choose party lists rather than individual candidates, with seats distributed according to the percentage of the vote received.
Analysts believe that the next three days will be crucial as 20 per cent of Israeli voters have yet to decide who they will support.
But it could take weeks of negotiations before the name of the new prime minister is known.
Yesterday's polls had put The Joint List, a newly formed alliance of Israel's main Arab parties, in third place, with 13 seats and predicted that the centre-right Yesh Atid could win 12 seats.
Although consistently trailing in the polls, Netanyahu has come out fighting, and analysts say he may be better placed than Herzog to form a coalition government.
Campaigning is due to close on Sunday night with a major rally planned in Tel Aviv by right-wing parties -- a week after the centre-left mobilised thousands of supporters in the coastal city.
It is not clear if Netanyahu, who is trying to clinch a third consecutive term in office, will attend Sunday's rally.