Israel’s parliament has voted to dissolve itself, sending the country to an unprecedented second snap election this year as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition.
The dramatic vote, less than two months after parliamentary elections, marked a dramatic downturn for Mr Netanyahu and sent the long-time leader’s future into turmoil.
Mr Netanyahu, who has led Israel for the past decade, had appeared to capture a fourth consecutive term in April’s election.
But infighting among his allies, and disagreements over proposed bills that would protect Mr Netanyahu from prosecution stymied his efforts to put together a majority coalition.
Rather than concede that task to one of his rivals, Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party advanced a bill to dissolve parliament and send the country to the polls for a second time this year.
Had the deadline passed, Israel’s president would have given another politician, most likely opposition leader Benny Gantz, an opportunity to put together a coalition.
After the vote, Mr Gantz angrily accused Mr Netanyahu of choosing self-preservation over allowing the country’s political process to run its course.
Mr Gantz said that instead of following procedure, Mr Netanyahu opted for “three crazy months” of a new campaign and millions of wasted dollars over new elections because he is “legally incapacitated” by looming indictments.
“There is no other reason,” Mr Gantz said.
Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party won 35 seats in the April 9 election, and his religious and nationalist allies won another 30, appearing to give him a solid majority in the 120-seat parliament.
But discord between his ultra-Orthodox allies and former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman’s secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party resulted in a deadlock.
After the vote, Mr Netanyahu angrily accused Mr Lieberman of making unrealistic demands and forcing an unnecessary election.
“He is dragging the entire country for another half a year of elections,” he said.
The vote sends the country into uncharted political waters, no less because Mr Netanyahu, the interim prime minister, still faces a likely indictment for a series of corruption charges just around the time of the election.