Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid called Tuesday on Meretz supporters to vote for the left-wing party to ensure it passes the electoral threshold in the March 23 vote, but stressed that Yesh Atid should be Israel's next ruling party.
"There are more than 10 [out of 120 Knesset seats] hanging in the balance," Lapid said in a press briefing in Tel Aviv.
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"If they don't go to Yesh Atid, a benighted, racist, homophobic and extortionist government would be formed here. A major force is needed to change realty. I respect the parties in [the center-left] bloc, they will be important partners," Lapid said.
He added that "if someone wants to vote for Meretz, they should vote for Meretz, it's important that they pass the electoral threshold. But beyond that, it's impossible to bring about a regime change without a big ruling party."
Earlier on Tuesday, Labor Knesset candidate Nachman Shai said that the party would recommend that President Reuven Rivlin task Lapid with forming the next government after election.
Lapid himself has avoided declaring that he seeks the position of prime minister.
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"We will recommend Yair Lapid to the president, we'll definitely recommend him," Shai said in an interview with Army Radio. "We think that he can lead the coalition in Israel," adding that the party sees Lapid as the head of the center-left bloc.
Shai's statement comes the day after Nitzan Horowitz, chairman of the struggling Meretz party, that they would also recommend that Rivlin task Lapid with building a coalition. Meretz was the first party in the center-left bloc to officially announce its support for Lapid.
"We will recommend Yair Lapid as prime minister," Horowitz told the Ynet news website.
"I see Lapid as the head of the largest party in the [center-left] bloc and he has the greatest chance to form a government. We will be part of the government alongside him. Meretz intends to request the education portfolio. I want to be the next education minister," he said.
Horowitz clarified that his party backs his statement and estimated that Meretz would become a crucial factor in forming the next government if Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not manage to secure a 61-seat majority.
A recent election poll has projected that Netanyahu's Likud would receive 28 out of 120 Knesset seats, with the anti-Netanyahu bloc receiving 58 seats, and the pro-Netanyahu bloc 47.
The poll also showed that Labor and Meretz would receive six and four seats respectively. Kahol Lavan and the United Arab List would both win four seats.