With polls closing in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party is leading the parliamentary elections, based on projections from exit polls. However, Netanyahu may struggle to form a governing coalition, after several opposition parties posted strong performances.
Israel’s channel 2 predicted at 10 p.m. local time that his potential coalition partners would control 61 out of 120 seats–a razor-thin majority.
If the exit polls’ predictions hold, Netanyahu may remain in the Prime Minister’s office, but the country’s political landscape will have shifted somewhat leftwards.
The Times of Israel notes:
If these numbers prove accurate, Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu partnership has lost a devastating 11 seats compared to the 42 it held in the outgoing Knesset. But Netanyahu would still be best-placed to lead the next coalition.
The next-largest parties are likely to be the centrist Yesh Atid, which is distinguished by its strong push to end exemptions from military conscription, and National Home, which is to the right of Likud on foreign policy. It is also possible Netanyahu could lead a conservative coalition without the support of Israel’s religious parties.
Though none of the left-wing opposition leaders has anywhere close to the support that Netanyahu enjoys, their parties’ strong collective showing indicates some fatigue with Netanyahu, who is seeking his third term in the midst of relatively slow economic growth and stagnation in the peace process.
UPDATE: Netanyahu has declared victory on his Facebook page, acknowledging the election results as “a big opportunity for changes” for Israel–perhaps a nod to the reform policies of Yesh Atid, whose strong finish surprised most observers, and without which no party can hope to form a coalition at the moment.
Yesh Atid is led by former Israeli journalist Yair Lapid, the son of the late Tommy Lapid, who led a similar centrist insurgency ten years ago, which likewise surprised election observers in the 2003 elections.