The Israeli government decided Monday to hold early elections in April, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who potentially faces corruption charges, struggles to hold together a one-seat majority in parliament.
Despite Netanyahu’s recent legal and political problems, polls indicate he would remain prime minister after new elections, putting him in line to become Israel’s longest-serving premier.
Heads of parties in Netanyahu’s coalition agreed to hold elections in early April “in the name of budgetary and national responsibility,” a statement said.
The government was preparing a bill to dissolve the Knesset, or parliament, and hold elections on April 9, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said.
Elections were not due until November, but there has been speculation the coalition would not last that long.
Netanyahu outlined what he sees as his achievements and said he hoped for a similar coalition to the current one, which is considered the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
“We ask for a clear mandate from the voter to continue to lead the state of Israel in our own way,” he said.
The decision comes with the coalition struggling to agree on a key bill related to ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the military like their secular counterparts.
Ultra-Orthodox parties hold 13 seats out of the coalition’s 61, giving them substantial influence.
Netanyahu’s coalition was left with a one-seat majority after defence minister Avigdor Lieberman stepped down in November over a controversial Gaza ceasefire deal.
His resignation cost the coalition five seats.
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse