Israel votes in second general election in 2019

Israelis began voting on Tuesday in an unprecedented second general election in just over five months, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making another attempt at extending his premiership.

Netanyahu and his Likud party are facing off against his nearest challenger, former army chief of staff Benny Gantz from the Blue and White party, after he failed to form a government following an election in April.

The candidate most likely to be tapped as the next prime minister is the one who is able to form a coalition with enough parties to make up at least 61 seats in the 120-member Israeli parliament, or Knesset.

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In the April election, the right-wing Likud tied with the centrist Blue and White, but the right-wing and religious bloc was larger than the centre-left one, giving Netanyahu support from more parties and the chance to form a government.

After the talks failed, Netanyahu and his supporters voted to dissolve the Knesset and trigger fresh elections rather than let another prime minister candidate try to form a government.

President Reuven Rivlin has said he will do everything possible to prevent the same happening again and a third election being called.

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Polling stations opened at 7 am (0400 GMT) and close at 10 pm.

Some 6.4 million people are eligible to vote for the 120 members of the Knesset in Jerusalem. There are 10,700 polling stations located in 4,000 areas across the country.

Gantz and his number 2 Yair Lapid have agreed that if their party wins, they will rotate the premiership, with Gantz as prime minister for the first two and a half years and Lapid taking the helm for the remaining one and a half years of their term.

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Apart from Netanyahu and Gantz, a key figure to watch is Avigdor Liberman of the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party. He refused to join Netanyahu’s planned coalition after the vote in April, and he may yet turn out to be kingmaker in this poll.

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