Netanyahu short of majority amid vote count

Jerusalem, March 24 (IANS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may struggle to secure enough seats in Parliament to stay in power, incomplete results of Tuesday’s election suggested, even as he claimed victory in the country’s fourth elections in two years.
His announcement came within two hours of exit polls on Israel’s main three TV channels which indicated no immediate winner in the unprecedented elections amid a prolonged political deadlock.
“A huge victory to the right-wing and the Likud (party) under my leadership,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night, Xinhua news agency reported.
He said his right-wing Likud party is “by far” the largest party in Israel, after the polls suggested it won about 31 seats.
With about 90 per cent of votes counted, his right-wing bloc is course to win 59 seats – two short of the threshold, the BBC reported.
In a surprise development, an Arab party which is projected to win five seats could hold the balance of power.
The final outcome will among other things determine the course of Israel’s relations with the Palestinians.
The Arab party, Raam, has not declared whether it will support the efforts of Netanyahu – an unnatural ally – to form a government or those of the bloc opposed to him remaining in office.
Those parties have garnered 56 seats, according to the latest tally, and although backing from Raam could give them a sufficient number to form a government, they are fragmented and unlikely to be able to agree to work together.
If neither grouping can form a majority coalition, the country could face its fifth general election since April 2019.
Israel’s electoral system, a form of proportional representation, makes it almost impossible for a single party to win an election outright.
Based on the latest results, to stay in office, Netanyahu would need to secure the support of both Raam and a small right-wing nationalist party, Yamina.
Like Raam, Yamina’s leader, Naftali Bennett, has not announced which side he will throw his weight behind.
“I will do only what is good for the State of Israel,” he said after the voting ended on Tuesday night.
He added that he had told Netanyahu that Yamina would await the final results before deciding on its next steps.

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