Israel’s Parliament on Tuesday set a January 22 date for a national election and opinion polls predict an easy win for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in balloting expected to focus on his tough policies on Iran’s nuclear program and economics. Lawmakers approved the measure by a vote of 100 to nil after a more than eight-hour debate, dissolving parliament, or ending its term of office, effective immediately and months ahead of schedule. Israeli elections had been expected in October 2013, but it is common for governments to break up before their terms expire over disagreements about budgets, policy on religion or the nation’s conflicts with Arab and other neighbors.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for an early election after failing to agree on a budget with his coalition partners, saying the vote should be held “as soon as possible” for the good of the country. In a televised announcement Tuesday, Netanyahu said the election was necessary to ensure “a responsible security and economic policy” in the face of the economic downturn and threats to Israel’s security from Iran and elsewhere. The election will ideally happen in three months’ time, he said, rather than in October 2013, as originally scheduled. “It is my obligation as the prime minister to put the national interest above everything else,” Netanyahu said. “So I have decided that it is in the best interest for the state of Israel to go to elections now and as soon as possible.”