Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emerged from Tuesday’s elections victorious but substantially weakened, with his Likud party projected to win 31 seats, down from its current 42 seats, according to early exit polls. The big exit poll surprise, however, was the second-place showing of the centrist Yesh Atid party, formed in 2012 by Israeli journalist Yair Lapid. Buoyed by stronger-than-expected voter turnout, Yesh Atid is projected to win 18 or 19 seats, topping the leftist labour Party, which came in third with 17 seats.
The far-right ultranationalist Jewish Home party is projected to win just 12 seats — a disappointing finish for the party and its charismatic young leader Naftali Bennett, who has been at the centre of recent media hype about the resurgence of Israel’s right wing.
In fact, if the exit poll results are correct, the Israeli right will emerge from this election substantially weakened, with a slim 61-62 seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset. Although the Likud party remain the biggest bloc in the Knesset, its diminished showing could complicate Netanyahu’s efforts to put together a governing coalition in his third term as prime minister.
John Tabin tweets this photo of the exit polls:
Netanyahu is expected to reach out to that small conservative, religious majority to form his government. Some have speculated that the Prime Minister will also make overturnes to centrist parties in an effort to broaden his coalition.
The full election results are due Wednesday morning, and the official tally will be announced on January 30.
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