Jerusalem, Nov 2 (PTI) Exit polls by all the leading Israeli TV channels on Wednesday following the fifth general elections in the country in less than four years predicted a comeback for former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led right-wing bloc.
The exit polls were broadcast soon after polling booths closed at 10 PM local time on Tuesday.
However, official results are not expected until late Wednesday. The process of forming the government could drag on for weeks.
According to the Central Elections Committee, voter turnout was 71.3 per cent in the election, the highest since 2015.
The exit polls saw pro-Netanyahu bloc winning 61-62 seats in the 120-member Knesset (Israeli parliament), just about making the magical figure that would see him making a comeback after losing power following March 2019 polls.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid led bloc was put at 54-55 seats as per the exit polls.
Public broadcaster Kan and Channel 12 gave the Netanyahu-led bloc 62 seats, while Channel 12 put it at 61.
Reacting to the exit polls, Netanyahu said, “It’s a good start, that’s all I can say right now.” However, he added cautiously, “It depends on the real count.”
Israel has been locked in an unprecedented period of political stalemate since 2019, when 73-year-old Netanyahu, the country's longest-serving leader was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
On Tuesday, Israelis voted for an unprecedented fifth time in four years to break the political impasse that has paralysed the country.
About 6.78 million Israeli citizens were eligible to elect their 25th Knesset. Some 210,720 new voters were able to vote for the first time, accounting for about four to five seats, adding an interesting dimension to the polls.
The prospect of the next government seems to be largely hinged on two factors - the level of right-wing polarisation, not necessarily in favour of veteran politician Netanyahu but for him to lead the coalition, and the extent of voter apathy, surprisingly, in the Arab sector.
Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister and among one of the most polarising ones whose leadership plagued by charges of graft has been at the centre of current instability, is facing a battle of political survival.
He has so far enjoyed the unflinching loyalty of his Likud party and other right-wing parties that have firmly stood behind him.
There were times when the bloc led by him came tantalisingly close to the magical 61 number in the Knesset, falling short by just one member.
His main rival, caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, is looking for a strong show for his Yesh Atid party that could help him mobilise those political formations opposed to a Netanyahu comeback.
Lapid last time out managed to cobble such a government bringing in strange bedfellows together, including parties from Left, Right and Centre backed for the first time with the support of even an Arab party in an experiment that many saw as historical.
About 40 parties which contested the polls are unlikely to get passed the threshold figure of 3.25 per cent votes required to get an entry into the Knesset.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without any modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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