90% of vote counted: Right-wing slips slightly but still going strong

The Right’s achievement came down to earth from Monday’s heady results.

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

It appeared to be a tremendous achievement of Israel’s right-wing bloc on Monday night – 60 seats in Israel’s Knesset. However, the result whittled down slightly as actual voting results came in on Tuesday.

With 90 percent of the vote counted, Israel’s right-wing led by the Likud has 59 seats, still a sizable gain.

Even a change of just one or two seats may have a dramatic impact on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to form a coalition, possibly making a fourth election more likely.

Monday evening exit polls on Israeli TV stations showed Likud and its smaller satellite parties, which make up the right-wing bloc, gaining 60 Knesset seats, one short of the majority required to declare victory.

Monday’s election was Israel’s third in less than a year, an unprecedented event in its history.

If the current number holds, it will be disappointing to Likud senior leaders. On Monday night, several noted that the party historically gained a seat or two from the exit polls. They expressed the hope that this would mean a clear 61-seat majority come Tuesday.

However, soldiers’ votes have not yet been counted and will likely give the Right a boost. Votes of soldiers traditionally lean rightwards.

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Despite the setback, the elections are still a clear victory for Netanyahu.

Addressing a raucous crowd of thousands of ecstatic supporters at 2:30 a.m., Netanyahu claimed a “giant victory.”

“This is a victory against all the odds, because we stood against powerful forces,” he said. “They already eulogized us. Our opponents said the Netanyahu era is over.”

Results have the Likud party gaining 36 seats. Its main rival Blue and White stands at 32 seats.

After elections, Israel’s president is responsible for picking a prime minister who will then attempt to cobble together a majority coalition. He usually picks the leader of the largest party. The decision will be an easy one given Likud’s lead over Blue and White.

Becoming the largest party was an important goal of the Likud, which wanted first crack at forming a government.

One thing that may complicate the issue is Netanyahu’s legal troubles. The Supreme Court decided not to hear a petition prior to the elections on whether he is fit to hold office given his indictment in three corruption cases.

But the court left open the possibility of weighing in later. It may still make its voice heard.

AP contributed to this report.