Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party topped the exit polls on Tuesday night in Israel’s fifth legislative election since 2019. Whether it will manage to form a majority with religious and political parties remains to be seen. the extreme right.
The Likud party of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out on top in the Israeli legislative elections according to polls on Tuesday, November 1 at the exit of the polls, but uncertainty remains about its ability to rally a majority with its allies from the religious parties and of the extreme right.
According to polls updated overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday by three major Israeli channels, Benjamin Netanyahu’s party is credited with 30 or 31 seats, out of the 120 in Parliament, ahead of outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which would collect between 22 and 24 seats.
This is followed by nine parties, including the far-right “Religious Zionism” alliance of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir with 14 seats, and the center-right party of ex-army chief Benny Gantz, credited with 11 to 13 seats.
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With its allies, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud would have 61 or 62 seats, obtaining a majority. But these scores could change when the official results are announced, in particular depending on the seats won by the smaller parties.
“I have experience, I have done some elections, we have to wait for the final results but our path, that of Likud, has proven to be the right one, we are close to a big victory,” he said. launched in the night Benjamin Netanyahu to his supporters gathered in Jerusalem. “We don’t know the results yet, but if the results are like the polls tonight, I will form a national government for all citizens of Israel,” Benjamin Netanyahu added.
“As long as the last ballot is not counted, nothing is decided. We will wait patiently, even if we have no patience, for the final results”, declared a little earlier the outgoing Prime Minister Yaïr Lapid at a rally of his supporters in Tel Aviv.
A former Likud party, current Justice Minister Gideon Saar, warned of the risk of seeing Israel heading towards a “coalition of extremists” led by Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies.
“Rise of Extremism”
“The majority of the population has proven that the right must be in power,” said Yossef Wiezman, 22, a supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu nicknamed “Bibi”, at a Likud rally where the crowd chanted in Hebrew “Bibi hozer” (“Bibi returns”).
“People want to walk the streets in safety, that our soldiers and police are not bound hand and foot,” Itamar Ben Gvir said, reiterating his call for the use of force, especially against Palestinians in East Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh denounced for his part a “progress of far-right religious parties” during these elections, testifying according to him “to the rise of extremism and racism in Israeli society” including the Palestinian people “suffering for years”.
In the Israeli proportional system, an electoral list must obtain at least 3.25% of the votes to enter Parliament with a minimum of four seats, a particularly critical situation for the parties of the Israeli Arab minority.
In 2020, the Arab parties, hostile to the right-wing bloc of Benjamin Netanyahu, had won a record 15 seats after a dynamic campaign under a single banner. But this time, they presented themselves in dispersed order under three lists: Raam, Hadash-Taal (secular) and Balad (nationalist).
According to exit polls, the Raam and Hadash-Taal parties should pass 3.25%, while the Balad formation is flirting with this minimum. If it reached it, it would remove seats from Benjamin Netanyahu’s “right bloc” with the risk for the latter of not being able to form a government.
“We are confident of reaching this threshold,” the Balad party said in a statement, claiming to have seen an increase in Arab voter turnout in the last hours before the polls closed.
Yohanan Plesner, director of the Israel Democratic Institute, an analysis center in Jerusalem, also recalls that there have been “lags” between the polls “and the actual results during the last electoral cycles”.
Israelis crowded into polling stations for these fifth legislative elections in the space of three and a half years, against the backdrop of Benjamin Netanyahu, accused of corruption by the courts, who wants to sign his big return to business.
The political class has multiplied calls to vote to the 6.8 million registered voters, which seems to have borne fruit with a participation rate of 71.3%, the highest since 2015, according to the electoral commission.
Faced with Benjamin Netanyahu’s “right-wing bloc”, Yaïr Lapid, 58, leader of the Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) party and leader of a coalition unique in the history of Israel because it brings together formations of left, center, right and an Arab party, had tried to convince that the course given in recent months should be maintained.
His “coalition for change” had ousted Benjamin Netanyahu from power in June 2021 before losing his parliamentary majority a year later, precipitating this fifth ballot since the spring of 2019.