Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced an early election, saying the vote should be held "as soon as possible."
In a televised news address Tuesday night, Netanyahu confirmed speculation he would call an early election, 9 months ahead of schedule, to take advantage of his strong standing in Israeli polls.
The Jerusalem Post quotes sources for Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, saying the Prime Minister is calling the election earlier than scheduled to catch his opponents off guard and to minimize damage to the economy.
There had been speculation Netanyahu would call a vote on February 13, 2013, the fourth anniversary of the last election. But Haaretz reports that the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) speaker asked last week to disband parliament within a few days after it reconvenes October 15. If that happens, the earliest date for an election would be January 15, 2013.
Haaretz says talk of an early election followed a statement by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party that he would not support wide-ranging budget cuts, especially cuts to benefits for the elderly, the poor and single parent families.
In his televised statement, Netanyahu says he made the decision based on the fact that his coalition wouldn't be able to agree on the budget, saying he "therefore decided, for the benefit of Israel, to hold elections now and as quickly as possible."
Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich says early elections are necessary to put an end to the "unstable and unhealthy" economy. She claims Netanyahu is going to the polls so he will be able to pass a "brutal and difficult budget that will harm the life of almost every citizen in the country, except for the very wealthy." "These elections will decide between a violent, jungle economy, and a fair economy and just society."
According to a poll published by Haaretz September 28, Likud would win 28 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, just one more than it currently holds, but giving it the strongest support to head up another exected coaltion. The poll also found 35 percent of Israelis see Netanyahu as “most suited” to lead the country, almost double the 16 percent of second place Labor party leader Shelly Yacimovich.