Exit polls from the Israeli election suggest Netanyahu is on course for a narrow majority


Jerusalem
CNN

Former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu was poised to make a triumphant return to office in Israel as early exit polls suggested he could have won a narrow majority in the country’s fifth national election in less than four years.

If the exit polls are correct, a big yes, Netanyahu and his political allies appear poised to win a majority of seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

As expected, early exit polls from the country’s three main broadcasters suggested late Tuesday that no party won enough seats to govern on its own, meaning a coalition government will have to be built .

Exit polls predicted pro-Netanyahu parties would take 61 or 62 of the 120 seats in parliament. The alliance consists of Netanyahu’s Likud party, Religious Zionism/Jewish Power, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

The alliance supporting current incumbent Prime Minister Yair Lapid, made up of Yesh Atid, National Unity, Yisrael Beiteinu, Labor, Meretz and Ra’am, was on course to take 54 or 55 seats, according to exit polls .

The Arab Hadash/Taal party, which is unlikely to support either side, is set for four seats, exit polls suggested.

The election was marked by the highest turnout since 2015. The Central Election Committee said 71.3 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, which was more than in any of the last four elections that produced deadlocks or governments short duration

Netanyahu spent the final weeks of the campaign storming the country in a truck-turned-travel stage surrounded by bulletproof glass. Pro-Netanyahu ads, and ads depicting his opponents looking grim, plastered the sides of the buses.

It is still not certain that Netanyahu is back, after Lapid had overtaken him after last year’s election.

Polls are just projections based on interviews with Tuesday voters, not official results. The results can – and have in the past – change over the course of election night. The official results may not be final until Wednesday or even Thursday.

Once they have the official results, President Isaac Herzog will invite the politician he considers most likely to form a government to open coalition negotiations.

Acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid casts his vote at a polling station in Tel Aviv on November 1, 2022.

A return of Netanyahu to the head of government could mean fundamental changes for Israeli society.

A Netanyahu government would almost certainly include the recently ascendant Jewish nationalist Religious Zionism/Jewish Power alliance, whose leaders include Itamar Ben Gvir, once convicted of inciting racism and supporting terrorism.

If the exit polls prove correct, the far-right alliance would more than double its representation in the Knesset. The grouping had six seats in the outgoing parliament; exit polls predict that they have won 14 or 15 seats this time.

Asked by CNN on Tuesday about fears he would lead a far-right government if returned to office, Netanyahu responded with an apparent reference to the Ra’am party, which made history last year by becoming the first Arab party to join a party. Israeli government coalition.

“We don’t want a government with the Muslim Brotherhood, which supports terrorism, denies the existence of Israel and is quite hostile to the United States. This is what we will bring,” Netanyahu told CNN in English at his college election of Jerusalem.

And Netanyahu’s allies have talked about making changes to the judicial system. This could end Netanyahu’s own corruption trial, where he has pleaded not guilty.

Netanyahu himself has been a major issue not only in Tuesday’s election but in the four leading up to it, with voters – and politicians – splitting into camps based on whether or not they want the man universally known as Bibi in power

Part of the difficulty in building a stable government over the past four elections has been that even some political parties that agree with Netanyahu on these issues refuse to work with him for personal or political reasons of their own.

Regardless of whether the ballot boxes are correct or not, they are only exit polls, not official results.

Getting the official results will take some time: they could be ready as early as Wednesday, but it could be Thursday before the final makeup of Israel’s 25th Knesset is clear.

That’s partly because parties must win at least 3.25 percent of the total vote to win any seats in the Knesset, a threshold set in an effort to facilitate coalition building by keeping very small parties out of the legislature.

To determine how many seats each party gets, election officials must first determine which parties have crossed the threshold. They can then calculate how many votes are needed to win a single seat in the Knesset and distribute seats to parties based on the number of votes they received.

This is the point where the real movement and dealing begins.

There is little chance that even if the election results look like a deadlock, a smart negotiator can pull together a surprise coalition, as Lapid did last year.

On the other hand, even if on paper one leader or another appears to have the support to form a majority government, they will still have to coax smaller parties into coalition deals.

And these smaller parties will have demands: control of particular ministries, financing of projects or programs important to their constituents, introducing new laws or getting rid of old ones.

Potential prime ministers will have to balance the competing demands of rival coalition partners, each of whom knows they hold the keys to putting a head of government in office.

And whoever becomes prime minister – if anyone does – will face the same problems.

The cost of living is skyrocketing in Israel as in so many other places, with rising energy and grocery bills. An Israel Democracy Institute poll this summer found that a party’s economic platform was by far the factor most often cited as a reason for choosing whom to vote for. Almost half (44%) of Israeli voters said it was the most important factor, well ahead of the quarter (24%) who said the party leader was the determining factor.

Any new prime minister will also have to deal with the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militias that has claimed more lives on both sides this year than at any time since 2015.

The Israel Defense Forces have carried out frequent raids for months in the occupied West Bank, particularly Jenin and Nablus, saying they are trying to arrest known attackers and seize weapons.

As a strategy, it does not appear to have reduced the level of violence: At least one Israeli civilian was shot dead near Hebron in the West Bank on Saturday, and others were wounded in the same incident, as were two doctors who to answer. one Israeli and one Palestinian. A day later, a Palestinian man rammed his car into five Israeli soldiers near Jericho. The two Palestinian attackers were killed, in a cycle of violence that the new prime minister will have to deal with, if indeed there is a new prime minister as a result of Tuesday’s vote.

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