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Israel's election race -- largely a one-man show

By Pierre Klochendler (Xinhua)

12:41, January 21, 2013

A man looks at a campaign poster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at David's Citadel in Jerusalem's Old City Jan. 20, 2013. The poster reads "only Netanyahu will guard Jerusalem". Israel will hold general elections on Jan. 22. (Xinhua/Jini)

JERUSALEM, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday, but the dice are already cast, so it appears. In all probability, according to polls, the incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will succeed himself.

"You're the greatest!" an Israeli pop singer sang Netanyahu's praise at the campaign kick-off of the Likud-Beitenu union. The Likud leader, who has served as the Israeli premier twice, indeed looks irresistible on his way to winning a third term.

Well before casting their votes on Tuesday, many Israeli voters know what was and what will be. According to latest opinion polls, the union of Likud and the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party would be the biggest winner of the vote, gaining 32 seats in the 120- member one-chamber parliament, the Kenesset.

"The notion is that everything's settled; that Likud with Benjamin Netanyahu is gonna win, no matter what. Nothing's gonna change. We're gonna wake up with the same government," said Yonatan Regev, political analyst of Israel's state TV Channel 10.

Ever since Netanyahu's election four years ago, polls invariably predict him at the helm for four more years. No wonder that at Channel 10's newsroom, the election campaign's just business as usual.

"The campaign's dormant -- no pros and cons, no passion, no drama, no anticipation of change, neither in economics nor in politics," said Hezi Simantov, a reporter of Channel 10.

Yet, because Netanyahu seems unbeatable, the number of parliamentary seats his electoral list would garner is on steady decline, as if victory validated the law of diminishing returns.

Too much support might paradoxically lead to too much disaffection.

General elections in Israel are conducted in accordance to a proportional parliamentary system of coalitions. People vote for political parties' lists of candidates. The party scoring the highest number of seats in the 120-seat Knesset is usually chosen to form a governing coalition.

The diminishing support is largely to blame on his decision to unify under the same ticket his right-wing Likud list to the more right-wing Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Homeland) party, pundits concur.

In politics, "united we stand" doesn't necessarily show at the polling station.

"They went to this move thinking, 'We'll combine our forces and we'll have 45 mandates.' But they're gonna be much smaller, and if they're smaller they're weaker," Regev said.

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