Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government following an inconclusive election expired, giving his rivals a chance to take power and end the divisive premier’s record tenure.
Netanyahu, on trial over corruption charges he denies, had a 28-day window to secure a coalition following the March 23 vote, Israel’s fourth in less than two years.
The 71-year-old’s right-wing Likud party won the most seats in the vote, but he and his allies came up short of an absolute majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
The results delivered by a deeply fractured electorate left Netanyahu with a daunting path towards 61 seats, as voters broadly chose not to reward him for a successful coronavirus vaccination campaign.
President Reuven Rivlin’s office said in a statement that Netanyahu had “informed (the presidency) that he was unable to form a government and so returned the mandate to the president.”
Rivlin said he would contact political leaders “regarding the continuation of the process of forming a government.”
He can assign a new 28-day mandate to another lawmaker, with opposition leader Yair Lapid the most likely choice after his centrist Yesh Atid party finished second in the vote.
In power from 1996 to 1999 and again since 2009, Netanyahu has acquired a reputation as a master political survivor and Israeli media had over the past four weeks feverishly speculated about deals he was hatching to stay in power.