UPDATE 4:55 p.m. ET: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared victory in the tight election.
“Against all odds:a great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel,” he wrote on Facebook Tuesday.
Original story below
The Likud party headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was predicted to narrowly win the largest number of votes in Tuesday’s legislative elections, edging out the left-wing Zionist Union, according to an exit poll by Israel’s Channel 2 — but the race was too close to call on Tuesday.
Channel 2 reported that its exit poll showed the Likud was set to secure 28 parliamentary seats versus 27 for the Zionist Union headed by Labor party Member of Knesset Isaac Herzog. Channel 10 had the two tied at 27-27.
Based on the number of Knesset seats exit polls forecast for the smaller parties, Israeli political analysts predicted Netanyahu would be in the best position to form a right-wing coalition government and thus to secure another term as Israel’s leader.
“According to the major exit polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is within easy reach of a right-wing coalition,” the Times of Israel predicted.
An initial count of paper ballots was not expected until Wednesday. A final count is to be released by Israel’s Election Committee Thursday.
The complicated process of putting together a coalition government poses a challenge to predicting the character of the next government, so despite the predictions, it was still too early to tell if the next government would be a right-wing government led by Netanyahu, a centrist unity government bringing together Netanyahu with the Zionist Union or if Herzog might still be able to pull together a left-center coalition.
Once the official count is complete Thursday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will tap the politician recommended by more than half the Knesset to form the coalition government. That politician will then have 28 days, plus a possible extension of two weeks, to secure a coalition backed by at least 61 out of 120 members of Knesset.