Exit polls from the Israeli elections showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu close to victory in the country’s third national elections within a year.
Right wing and religious parties will obtain 59 seats in the Knesset according to exit polls from Israel’s Channel 12 and Channel 13. If the polls are correct, that would leave the right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu two seats shy of forming a governing coalition.
Earlier on Monday the same polls showed the right-wing bloc with 60 seats. At that time, Netanyahu wrote on Twitter that the vote represented “a great victory for Israel.”
The prime minister’s Likud Party would itself obtain between 36-37 seats, while the rival Blue and White Party would obtain 32-33 seats. Likud looks to gain about four seats since Israel’s September elections, in what was widely seen as a referendum on corruption indictments filed against Netanyahu.
Likud MK David Amsalem, a staunch Netanyahu ally, hailed the election results as a rebuke to Israel’s attorney general.
“The public–one million and a half people–showed up to vote for Netanyahu. A reasonable person does not vote for someone who is a criminal,” Amsalem said during an appearance on Channel 12. Rivals “compared Netanyahu to [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan…I don’t think anyone since the founding of the state has been defamed as much as Netanyahu.”
Blue and White had complained earlier that voter turnout in the party’s stronghold of Tel Aviv was too low to beat Netanyahu, the Times of Israel reported.
“I will continue to struggle for our ideology [and] for you,” Blue and White head Benny Gantz told supporters following the release of the exit polls.
Voter turnout across the country stood at 71 percent, higher than both the April and September elections. Israel’s Health Ministry encouraged citizens to vote despite fears of the coronavirus epidemic, and set up specially-quarantined polling stations for the country’s 5,600 residents currently in home quarantine.