Israeli cabinet sets January 22 election date

JERUSALEM Sun Oct 14, 2012 7:43am EDT

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JERUSALEM Oct 14 (Reuters) - Israel's cabinet announced on Sunday a January 22 date for a national election, a ballot that opinion polls predict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will win.

The date needs to be approved by the Knesset, Israel's parliament, which convenes on Monday to vote to dissolve itself and move up an election originally scheduled for October 2013.

"The cabinet unanimously approved the proposal to hold Knesset elections on January 22, 2013," a statement from Netanyahu's office said.

Netanyahu called last week for an early election after his governing coalition failed to agree on the 2013 state budget. A new public mandate would strengthen his political standing as Israel confronts the challenge of Iran's nuclear programme.

A survey published on Thursday in the Maariv newspaper showed Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party winning 29 of parliament's 120 seats, up from a current 27, putting it in a prime position to form a coalition government.

Likud's most powerful rivals, centre-left Labour and a new centrist movement headed by a former TV anchor, would trail in the vote with 17 seats each, the poll showed.

The Haaretz newspaper, projecting from a separate poll, said Israel's next coalition government would likely be headed by Likud and comprise mostly religious or nationalist parties for a combined 68 seats, ahead of today's 66.

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