Israelis started voting Tuesday in an unprecedented repeat election that will decide whether long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power despite the corruption charges against him.
Netanyahu, the longest serving leader in Israeli history, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, and fifth overall. But he faces a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud.
Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, forcing them into a potential unity government.
Netanyahu has tried to portray himself as a statesman who is uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times. Gantz has tried to paint Netanyahu as divisive, offering himself as a calming influence and an honest alternative.
Tuesday’s vote marks their second showdown of the year after drawing even in the previous election in April.
But Avigdor Lieberman, his mercurial ally-turned-rival, refused to join the new coalition, citing the excessive influence it granted the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Without a parliamentary majority, Netanyahu dissolved parliament and called a new election.