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World - Middle East

Barak favored over Netanyahu before Israel election

Soldier voting
As Israeli soldiers cast their ballots a day before the rest of the country, the campaign's closing hours are full of high drama
Take a look at some Israeli political TV commercials
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May 16, 1999
Web posted at: 10:00 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT)

In this story:

PM candidate exodus hurts Netanyahu

Poll official predicts 'landslide'

Netanyahu: Barak made deal with Palestinians


JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Hours before Israelis vote for a new prime minister Monday, opinion polls and analysts predict Labor Party challenger Ehud Barak will unseat right-wing incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu, after the three other candidates quit the race.

Polling stations open at 7 a.m. (midnight EDT) and close at 10 p.m. (3 p.m. EDT). CNN will broadcast live exit reports when the polls close.

"There is only one poll that is important. That is the actual casting of votes," Barak said Sunday, commenting on surveys showing him winning the one-round showdown against Likud's Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said opinion polls have been wrong before.

"We're going to surprise people. We're going to determine the outcome of this thing, and we're going to win," Netanyahu said Sunday.

The 11th-hour Sunday pullout of Center Party leader Yitzhak Mordechai and ultranationalist Benny Begin spared Israel the prospect of a June 1 runoff if no one won more than 50 percent of the vote in the Monday election.

Israeli election officials said Sunday they will not count ballots cast for the candidates who dropped out.

PM candidate exodus hurts Netanyahu

Barak gives what some call an early victory speech Sunday  

Analysts said the absence of a runoff denies Netanyahu time he desperately needs to engineer a come-from-behind victory.

Mordechai, a former defense chief who trailed badly in opinion polls, asked his supporters to vote for Barak. Begin, a defector from Likud who was never given any chance of winning, pointedly did not endorse Netanyahu, 49.

Opinion polls released Sunday forecast Barak, a 57-year-old former army chief, would get between 52 and 55.5 percent of the vote.

Avi Dagani of the Geocartographia polling institute predicted Barak would win more votes than Netanyahu from the 700,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Poll official predicts 'landslide'

"There could be a landslide," he said on Channel Two.

Analysts have said the largely secular newcomers, many of whom supported Netanyahu in the 1996 election, have moved toward Barak after being turned off by the incumbent's alliance with religious parties.

Israeli Arabs are also expected to line up behind Barak after Saturday's withdrawal of Israeli Arab candidate Azmi Bishara.

Barak has promised to bring new momentum to the Palestinian peace process and eventual implementation of the U.S.-brokered accords that his party predecessors signed with the PLO in 1993.

He said Israeli voters were rejecting "Netanyahu's way, which has led us to this stalemate.... Our way is unity. We have a real chance for unifying the people."

Netanyahu: Barak made deal with Palestinians

Netanyahu makes an appeal to those who have drifted from his party  

Netanyahu, who froze peace accords, has painted Monday's vote as a battle between his camp and what he called a left-wing alliance that would dangerously cede land to the Palestinians.

"Elect a left-wing government under Barak or Likud under me," he told reporters.

He accused Barak of striking a deal that had the "blessing and support" of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat in order to get the Arab candidate to quit the race.

In addition to the prime ministerial ballot, Israel's 4.3 million voters will vote for a party's list of candidates for the country's 120-member parliament.

Thirty-one parties are vying for election. No one party has ever won an outright parliamentary majority.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Jerusalem Dispatch: Single-issue election puts spotlight on Netanyahu
More choices, weaker voices
Analysis: Why is this election different from all others?
Palestinian perspective: Election viewed with skepticism
U.S. 'hired guns' leave their mark on Israeli politics
Expatriate finds Israelis very much involved in politics
Understanding the U.S.- Israel connection
From James Carville stirs Israel's melting pot

Israeli Elections

Likelihood of runoff big question as Israeli race winds down
May 15, 1999
Netanyahu pins re-election hopes on forcing runoff
May 14, 1999
Barak's lead over Netanyahu grows in Israeli poll
May 13, 1999
Ultra-Orthodox rabbis endorse Netanyahu for re-election
May 12, 1999
Israel, PLO welcome delay in office-closings order
May 11, 1999
Netanyahu orders PLO offices in Jerusalem closed
March 10, 1999

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