UPDATE: With over 90% of the votes tallied in Israel’s election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is in a dead heat with rival Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party.
Each of the two parties holds just over 26% of the vote, with slightly more than 1 million ballots apiece in Tuesday’s parliamentary elections.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu is expected to be able to form a stable governing coalition as his party and its nationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies appear likely to win 65 of the Israeli parliament’s 120 seats.
One key Netanyahu ally, the New Right party headed by the current Education and Justice ministers, is on the cusp of falling below Israel’s electoral threshold for getting seats in parliament.
UPDATE: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared victory in national elections as exit polls show his Likud party gaining ground on its main rival.
Addressing a jubilant gathering of supporters early Wednesday, Netanyahu praised them for an “almost inconceivable achievement.”
Exit polls put Likud and the rival Blue and White parties in a tight race. But recent projections appear to be giving Likud a slight lead and in a stronger position to form a majority coalition in the 120-seat parliament.
In a speech repeatedly interrupted by cheering supporters, Netanyahu said that “I was very moved that the nation of Israel once again entrusted me for the fifth time, and with even greater trust.”
He vowed to establish a right-wing nationalist government.
Official results are expected later Wednesday.
ORIGINAL STORY: Multiple Israeli leaders are claiming an election victory despite mixed results in exit polls.
Likud and the leaders of the rival Blue and White party have both declared victory in Israel’s elections.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is part of the right-wing Likud party, while former military chief Benny Gantz and centrist politician Yair Lapid are part of the Blue and White party.
Netanyahu announced Tuesday that “a right-wing bloc led by the Likud party won a clear victory. I thank the citizens of Israel for the trust.”
Gantz and Lapid also declared, “we won! The Israeli public has had their say!”
They added that “These elections have a clear winner and a clear loser,” saying, “the president can see the picture and should call on the winner to form the next government. There is no other option!”
With neither side having a clear advantage in exit polls, Israel will have to wait for official results to come in overnight.