Israel president condemns 'awful and grubby' election campaign

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israeli President Reuven Rivlin condemned what he called an "awful and grubby" election campaign as he cast his ballot on Monday, urging an end to political "instability."

"We don't deserve another awful and grubby election campaign like the one that ends today and we don't deserve this never-ending instability. We deserve a government that works for us," Rivlin said in a statement after voting in Jerusalem.

The head of state did not spell out which aspects of the campaign he found troubling.

But the run-up to Israel's third election in less than 12 months has included a series of leaked recordings and mudslingings.

The left-wing Haaretz newspaper said in an editorial on Monday that the campaign "broke all known records for slime, filth and bile."

Rivlin said voting day in Israel "is normally a festive day.

"But the truth is that I don't feel like celebrating. I only (feel) a sense of deep shame when I face you, my fellow citizens," he added.

Voters are seeking to end a grinding political deadlock following two inconclusive elections in April and September.

Polls have pointed to another tight race between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and the centrist alliance led by ex-military chief Benny Gantz.

Both sides are expected to fall short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in parliament and will have to strike deals with smaller parties to forge a stable coalition.

That proved impossible after the last two votes and a further stalemate remains possible, raising fears of a fourth election before the end of the year.

"I ask you to go and vote," Rivlin said.

"I very much hope that we meet again only in 2024, or at least that I won't see another election campaign as president of the country that is so dear to us all."

Rivlin cast his ballot in Jerusalem shortly before Netanyahu, who is seeking re-election under the weight of criminal indictments.

Turnout has emerged as a key factor in the race, and the premier urged Israelis to cast their ballots, despite concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

"Go vote," Netanyahu said. "The coronavirus thing is completely under control."

Israel has 10 confirmed cases of the virus, with more than 5,000 others placed in home quarantine after travelling to areas considered outbreak hotspots.