Exit polls: Netanyahu likely to have option to form Israeli government

(Update 2: Adds exit polling data)

By Laura Fernandez Palomo

Jerusalem, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is showing a wide lead over his rivals in the national elections held Tuesday and appears to have the option of forming a new government if the rightist Yamina party will join his guaranteed partners, according to exit polls.

“Citizens of Israel, thank-you! You gave a great victory to the right and Likud under my leadership,” the premier said on the social networks, after immediately contacting Yamina leader Naftali Benet, according to media reports.

The corruption trial facing Netanyahu evidently has not prevented his party, Likud, once again from obtaining more than 30 seats in the Knesset, while the block of parties challenging him, ranging from the right to the center-left, would constitute a majority but have more remote chances of forming workable coalitions.

“I will only do what is good for the state of Israel,” Benet said Tuesday, as exit polls were indicating that by obtaining 7-8 parliamentary seats his party would be the key in allowing Netanyahu to renew his leadership of the country, which he has headed uninterruptedly since 2009.

Some 6.6 million Israelis were eligible to vote in the fourth elections the country has held in less than two years and, according to turnout estimates, they appear to have voted in a way that provides a feasible option for the country to extricate itself from its political logjam.

Netanyahu has the support of his traditional partners: the ultra-Orthodox Shas party (Sephardim) and United Judaism of the Torah (Ashkenazim), which in the main exit polls garnered between 14 and 16 Knesset seats.

Besides those Orthodox factions, he is also guaranteed the support of the Religious Zionist Party, an openly homophobic and anti-Arab coalition on the extreme right.

In all, he should command 53-54 seats from his traditional allies, and if Yamina joins forces with him he would have a majority of 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

The 71-year-old premier had been hoping that his government’s speedy Covid vaccination rollout, as well as the historic normalization agreements he signed with four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – would boost his chances in this fourth round.

In March 2020, voter turnout was 71.3 percent, higher than the 67.9 percent in April 2019 and the 69.4 percent from the September 2019 elections.

Authorities have invested around $200 million to adapt the voting process to the requirements of the pandemic, making sure those with Covid-19 or in quarantine can vote, the careful protocols making it the most expensive election in the country’s history.

During the day, with voter turnout initially quite low, Netanyahu urged his supporters to turn and to cast their ballots, saying: “Everyone here who hasn’t gone to vote yet, get out of the mall and go and vote for Likud. Two more seats and we win.”

Definitive election results are not expected until Friday, according to the national Election Committee, although the premier was blowing the victory horn early, saying that “It’s clear that the majority of Israelis are on the right and want a strong and stable government of the right.

Related Articles

Back to top button