Israel is officially headed for its third round of elections in less than a year.

Having failed to form a government after two elections the Israeli Knesset voted in the early hours of Wednesday to hold an election on 2 March 2020, extending the political deadlock.

Elections are usually set for 90 days after the dissolution of the Knesset, but as that would have put them on the Jewish holiday of Purim in 2020, legislators set the date a few days earlier.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Knesset passed the first reading of a bill to dissolve itself with the rest of the required readings was to be fast-tracked through parliament overnight.

But, as time ran out, Israel was automatically propelled into a third election cycle within 12 months, leaving MKs only determine the date of Election Day.

Israeli law states that should no government be formed within the allotted period after an election, parliament is dissolved with a fresh ballot to take place within 90 days. The date, however, was preempted by a week in order to avoid the elections date clashing with Purim holiday.

Both Netanyahu and his chief rival Gantz have for weeks insisted they wanted to avoid another costly election campaign, but they were unable to come to an agreement.

President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday urged the Israeli public not to “sink into despair” or “lose faith” in democracy.

“After two rounds of elections and as a third campaign about to begin, I believe this is critical moment for the Israeli public, which will decide on who its leaders are,” said Rivlin in a statement. “Israeli democracy was and still is a source of pride, and we know that the democratic system comes at a cost,” he said.

“I pray that the depth of the current political crisis and the divisions it exposes amongst us will lead us – as a society and as a country – to fight not only for the right to disagree with each other, but also to the duty to find what we can agree about.”

“We must not allow ourselves to sink into despair or grievance, which does no good. We must not lose faith in the democratic system or in its ability to create the reality we live in with our own hands,” he added. “When the time comes, we will all exercise our democratic right and do it in the hope of a better future, as soon as possible, for us all.”

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