JERUSALEM: A public opinion poll published on Tuesday, the first following the announcement of snap elections in Israel, predicts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will cruise towards an easy re-election in April.
The Panels Politics poll in the Maariv daily showed Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party securing 30 seats in the 120-seat parliament and a majority for his current right-wing, nationalist bloc. Coming in second at 13 seats was the still hypothetical party headed by former military chief Benny Gantz, who has yet to declare whether he is even running. The established left and centre parties lagged far behind.
The survey polled 500 Israelis and had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.
Netanyahu on Monday called early elections for April, setting the stage for a three-month campaign clouded by a series of corruption investigations against the long-serving Israeli leader. With the traditional opposition parties splintered, the only thing seeming to stand in Netanyahu’s path toward a fourth consecutive term is a potential indictment against him on corruption charges.
Israelis have been eagerly awaiting a decision by the attorney general on whether to file charges against the prime minister. Netanyahu, facing the possibility of bribery and breach of trust charges in three different cases, brushed aside questions on how his legal peril would influence the election at a gathering of his Likud Party as he announced plans for what is expected to be an April 9 vote.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the allegations as a media-orchestrated witch hunt aimed at removing him from office.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s office says his decision, expected in the coming months, would not be influenced by any political timetable.
Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2018