Israelis are out in force voting in a snap election called by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who will stand down due to corruption charges. Some 5.3 million voters are set to cast ballots across the country in the parliamentary election which comes in the shadow of the conflict in Gaza which killed over 1,330 people.
Previous frontrunner Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his lead since the 22-day war last month which ended after a truce was called on January 18. Now polls show the rightist neck-and-neck with Foreign Minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. If she wins, Livni would be the first female prime minister since Golda Meir in the 1970s. Livni has led Western-backed peace talks with Palestinians that US President Barack Obama wants to resume. However a two-state solution has yet to be resolved.Meanwhile extreme rightist Avigdor Lieberman saw his popularity increase after the war, with his Yisraeli Beitenu party pledging to get tougher with Palestinians, including Israeli Arab citizens. His politics support Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.