General elections begin in Israel as voting polls open
JERUSALEMMar 17, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Mar 17, 2015 12:00 am
Voting polls opened on Tuesday, AFP correspondents said, for unpredictable elections to determine whether Israelis still want incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as leader, or will seek change after six years.
Over 5.8 million voters can cast their vote between 0500 GMT and 2000 GMT in 10,372 polling stations nationwide for parties which will comprise the 120-member Israeli parliament. The next prime minister will be the party leader in the best position to form a coalition government.
Speaking after voting at a Jerusalem school shortly after polls opened, Netanyahu reiterated that he was seeking to form a rightwing coalition.
"There will not be a unity government with Labour," he said. "I will form a nationalist (rightwing) government."
Final opinion polls gave the centre-left Zionist Union led by Labour head Isaac Herzog a 3-4 seat lead over Netanyahu.
But the surveys also show Netanyahu will have an advantage when it comes to piecing together a coalition with smaller allies from the right.
Netanyahu upped his rightwing rhetoric ahead of the vote in a ploy to take away votes from the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home, pledging on Monday there would be no establishment of a Palestinian state were he reelected.