Exit polls in Israel point to Netanyahu victory

Jerusalem, Nov 1 (EFE).- The right-wing coalition led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won a majority of seats in the Israeli parliament in Tuesday’s election, according to the results of exit polls.

Netanyahu’s Likud party will take as many as 31 seats in the 120-member Knesset, while its allies look set to pick up at least 30 more.

Yesh Atid (There is a Future), the centrist formation of caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, was on track for its best result ever, winning 23 seats, but the governing alliance as a whole is expected to secure no more than 55 seats in the new parliament.

The first official returns are not expected until after midnight and the definitive results will be released Friday.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, spent more than 12 years in power before being ousted last year as a result of defections by conservatives troubled by the corruption charges pending against him.

The Likud leader’s trial continues, but could drag on for several years and under Israeli law, a prime minister convicted of a crime may remain in office until he or she exhausts all appeals.

More than 6.7 million Israelis were eligible to cast ballots in the country’s fifth general election in less than four years.

The new factor this time around was the emergence of the openly racist and homophobic Zionist Religious Party as a force. The far-right grouping appears to have increased its presence in the Knesset from six to as many as 15 seats.

On the anti-Netanyahu side, center-right National Unity, headed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, will hold 12 seats.

The Labor Party, which dominated Israeli politics from the founding of the state in 1948 until the late 1970s, won only 5 seats.

More than 66 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots by 4:00 pm, with six hours left before the polls closed. If that figure is confirmed, it would represent the highest turnout since 1999. EFE sga/dr

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