(Adds Bennett statement)
JERUSALEM, June 29 (Reuters) – Israel faces its fifth election in less than four years on Wednesday as it grapples with rising living conditions as the international community renews efforts to revive a nuclear deal with Iran cost and plunge it into deeper political uncertainty.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has announced that he will not stand in the upcoming elections, but will remain as alternate prime minister after his coalition partner Yar Rapid takes over as head of the interim government.
“I left a prosperous, strong and safe country,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “We proved this year that people with very different opinions can work together,” he added, referring to his coalition of ideological diversity.
Last week, Bennett began dissolving parliament after infighting made his ruling coalition untenable. Parliament set a deadline at midnight on Wednesday for a final vote to dissolve.
Once the call for early elections is finally approved by parliament, Israel’s center-left foreign minister, Yar Rapid, will succeed Bennett as prime minister in a caretaker government with limited powers.
But even as lawmakers grapple with an exact election date (Oct. 25 or Nov. 1), the campaign has been dominated by a possible comeback from former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A year ago, Lapid and Bennett ended Netanyahu’s 12-year reign by forming a rare coalition of right-wing, liberal and Arab parties that lasted longer than many expected, But it has faltered in recent weeks due to infighting.
Current opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is pleased with the end of what he says is the worst government in Israel’s history. He hopes to win a sixth term despite being tried for corruption on charges he denies.
Surveys show his right-wing Likud is leading in the polls but lacks a ruling majority despite support from the United Religious and Nationalist party.
Lawmakers in the pro-Netanyahu bloc say they are working to form a new government before parliament is dissolved. This seemingly out of reach scenario would derail early elections. (Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Henriette Chacar; Editing by Robert Birsel and Aurora Ellis)