Israel to hold early elections in April

Israel to hold early elections in April

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition collapsed on Monday, with the announcement it was dissolving parliament and calling early elections in April.

Mr Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009, said the decision was a "unanimous" one and the poll will be held in April.

At a meeting of his Likud party, Mr Netanyahu listed his achievements in office and said he hoped the current religious, nationalistic coalition would form the "core" of the next government.

"We will ask the voters for a clear mandate to continue leading the state of Israel our way", he said to applause from party members.

Edelstein on Monday confirmed the election would be held on April 9.

The latest polls appear to predict another solid victory for Mr Netanyahu, though an indictment over mounting corruption charges could still trip him up.

"Accused of fraud in investigations carried out in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to manipulate the worldwide community", Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party spokesman Omer Celik also said in a tweet.

Netanyahu's coalition had already been on shaky ground since mid-November when then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced his resignation over the government's handling of Hamas violence emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Mr Netanyahu's ultra-Orthodox partners are demanding the legislation be weakened and his razor-thin parliamentary majority seems to be making such a compromise impossible.

The decision comes with the coalition, seen as the most right-wing in Israel's history, struggling to agree on a key bill related to ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the military like their secular counterparts.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have been tense this year over multiple issues including a controversial law passed by the Israeli parliament in July which defined the country as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Outside Likud, Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid opposition party, is seen as the strongest candidate to succeed Mr Netanyahu in any upset.

"The leaders of the coalition decided unanimously to dissolve parliament and go to a new election in early April", a spokesman for the Israeli premier wrote on Twitter.

But the potential for criminal charges over a slew of corruption allegations could finish the Israeli PM's political career.

A series of corruption probes against Netanyahu and pending decisions by Israel's attorney general on whether to follow police recommendations to indict him had raised speculation he would opt to seek a public show of confidence at the ballot box. The country has always been eagerly awaiting the attorney general's decision on whether to press charges, as opposition figures have called on Netanyahu to resign because of his legal woes.

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