Brussels (Brussels Morning) Exit polls for Israel’s latest round of elections indicate that current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have a hard time remaining in power, with the new parliament likely to be evenly divided between his opponents and supporters, Reuters reported.
Israel’s opposition parties made a better showing than expected, having highlighted corruption charges currently raised against Netanyahu and accusing the incumbent PM of mishandling the pandemic. Even the best coronavirus vaccination drive in the world failed to give a much-needed boost to Netanyahu, despite his efforts to take personal credit for vaccinating the majority of the population.
After the polls closed, Netanyahu took to the social media to declare a “huge victory”, despite exit polls and projections refuting his claims. Speaking later at a rally of his Likud centre-right party, Netanyahu called the results a “great achievement”, even though the party was projected to win only 30 seats in the Knesset, compared to the 36 it held from the previous elections.
Netanyahu said he hoped to form a “stable” right-wing government. However, the final composition of the new parliament could yet end up in a stalemate and that could trigger the country’s fifth general election in the space of two years.
With more than 90% of the votes counted, it became clear that Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc will likely win 59 seats altogether, two short of an absolute majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Final results are due later in the week, but the projected balance of power could make the Arab party Raam the future kingmaker. Holding five seats, it could provide the necessary majority either for Netanyahu, or for a coalition of parties aiming to oust him from office, which is projected to win 56 seats.
An unnatural ally for Netanyahu’s Likud, Raam could makes its support for the PM conditional on changes in the government’s policy and relations with the Palestinian minority in the country. Based on the latest projections, its leader, Mansour Abbas, said he would be “open to working with Mr. Netanyahu” to address the needs of Israeli’s Arab citizens. At the same time, he made clear he did not rule out joining any coalition.