Supporters of PM Benjamin Netanyahu celebrate at Likud headquarters after first exit poll results for Israeli elections in Tel Aviv, March 2, 2020. (AP/Oded Balilty) (AP/Oded Balilty)
Netanyahu Likud headquarters

Netanyahu emerged victorious Monday evening, but the final result is still undetermined. Thus far, the Likud-led bloc has 59 seats – two less than the required 61, while Blue and White has 32 seats.

By TPS and Associated Press

The exit polls of the March 2020 elections for the 23rd Knesset indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu obtained a decisive victory in Monday’s national election and is the leading candidate to form the next government.

As of Tuesday, he is one or two seats short of establishing a government of 61 members.

Final results are expected Wednesday, after officials finish counting several hundred thousand votes cast by Israeli soldiers and some 4,000 ballots cast by Israelis confined to home quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Even if Netanyahu falls short of a majority, he appears to hold the upper hand as rival political camps try to end the deadlock that has paralyzed the political system for over a year.

According to the preliminary results and exit polls, Likud was singlehandedly projected to win 35 to 36 seats, placing it well ahead of the 32 seats projected to go to the rival Blue and White party, led by his main challenger, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

Jonathan Urich, a Netanyahu aide, said Likud was already working to poach defecting lawmakers from the opposition. “I expect that fairly shortly we’ll have the missing votes,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

The March 2020 elections saw the highest turnout since 1999. Thus far, the results are as follows:

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud – 36

Benny Gantz’s Blue and White – 33

Labor + Gesher + Meretz – 6

The Joint Arab List – 15

United Torah Judaism – 8

Yemina – 7

Shas – 9

Yisrael Beiteinu – 6

Otzmah Yehudit – 0, failed to pass the electoral threshold.

The exit polls for the 2015 elections failed to predict the actual outcome. A poll from the April elections likewise missed the mark. September’s exit poll was accurate.

Similarly, the exit polls do not take into consideration the soldiers’ votes, which are usually more to the right and can boost the right-wing parties.

Under Israeli law, the president is responsible for designating a prime minister, choosing the candidate deemed to have the best chance of forming a coalition after several days of consultations with the various political parties.

His choice is usually, but not always, the leader of the largest party. President Reuven Rivlin’s office said he would begin the consultation process on March 10.

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