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Polls see easy election win for Netanyahu, Israeli right

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks set for easy re-election in an Israeli ballot early next year and may end up with a bigger coalition than he has today, according to polls published today.

Citing deadlocked budget disputes with allies and looming security challenges such as Iran's nuclear programme, Netanyahu on Tuesday brought forward the legislative election originally slated for October. It is now due in January or February.

A survey in Maariv newspaper saw Netanyahu's rightist Likud party taking 29 of parliament's 120 seats, up from its current 27. Likud's two most powerful rivals, centre-left Labour and a new centrist movement under former TV anchor Yair Lapid, would trail in the vote with 17 seats each, Maariv found.

Projecting from its own poll, Haaretz newspaper said the next coalition government, led by Likud and comprising mostly religious or nationalist parties, could command 68 parliamentary seats, up from today's 66.

Netanyahu's sole centrist ally, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, looks likely to take an electoral drubbing, with Haaretz and Maariv predicting that his party might not win enough votes to secure any seats in the next parliament.

Now in his second term as premier, Netanyahu has enjoyed solid approval ratings thanks to Israel's relative economic and security stability amidst the political upheaval in surrounding Arab countries.

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