Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz are locked in a tight race in the national elections that were held on Tuesday, with unofficial results showing both sides short of the majority mark. A coalition will once again be key after Netanyahu failed to form one following elections held in April, thus prompting fresh elections on September 2017.
Israel’s legislative body, the Knesset, has 120 seats, and a coalition needs 61 to form the government. Unofficial results on Channel 12 and 13 showed Likud and Blue and White parties tied with 32 seats each, Reuters reported. Both were projected to reach 55 or 56 seats each with support from other parties.
By 9.15 am (11.45 am Indian time), 44.2% votes had been counted, out of which Netanyahu’s Likud party had won 28.21% and the Blue and White Party, led by Gantz, had won 27.59% votes, according to the country’s election body.
The far-right Yisrael Beiteinu, led by former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, will be a likely kingmaker with 7.76% votes so far. His refusal to back Netanyahu’s coalition in the April election had led to the repeat elections.
Netanyahu addressed the nation at 3 am from his party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, and said he wanted to establish a “strong Zionist government” that would reflect the views of “many of the nation’s people”.
Ahead of the elections, Benjamin Netanyahu had promised to annex the Jordan Valley in West Bank if he is re-elected. April was the first time a prime minister-designate was unable to form a coalition.
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