Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on track for victory in Israel’s election on Wednesday after nearly complete results put him in position to form a right-wing coalition and further extend his long tenure in office. The results from Tuesday’s vote came despite corruption allegations against the 69-year-old Premier and kept him on course to win a fifth term, and become Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister later this year.
His close ally President Donald Trump said the incumbent’s victory for a fifth mandate gives the White House’s long-awaited peace plan a “better chance”. Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party looked set to finish with a similar number of seats in Parliament to his main rival, ex-military chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance.
But the results showed that Likud, together with other right-wing parties allied to the Prime Minister, would hold around 65 seats in the 120-seat Parliament. The results would seem to leave President Reuven Rivlin, who must ask one of the candidates to form a government, with little choice but to pick Mr Netanyahu.
Intensive coalition negotiations will follow and could drag on for days or even weeks. The close race between the two main parties had led to uncertainty after polls closed on Tuesday night and exit surveys were released.
Mr Netanyahu spoke in the early hours of Wednesday at the Likud’s post-election party in Tel Aviv and called it a “magnificent victory.” “It will be a right-wing government, but I will be Prime Minister for all,” he said. The vote had been expected to be close, even with Mr Netanyahu facing potential corruption charges.