Clear victory for Israel’s Netanyahu with 97% of vote counted

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File photo of Israeli former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The conservative bloc of Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is set for a clear election victory on Wednesday, with 86 per cent of the votes counted.

His right-wing religious camp has managed to secure a majority of 65 of the 120 seats in parliament, according to Israeli media reports.

Netanyahu’s Likud party is reportedly the strongest force, with 31 parliamentary seats.

The Incumbent Prime Minister, Yair Lapid’s Future Party was set to come second, with 24 seats.

For the first time in Israel’s history, an extreme right-wing alliance looks set to come third.

The Religious Zionist Party of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir is seen as a possible kingmaker for Netanyahu.

The leftwing Meretz party, as well as the Arab party Balad could fail to clear the 3.25 per cent hurdle.

The final result is expected by Thursday.

Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh has raised concerns about Israel’s swing to the right, asking the international community to “protect our people against aggressive Israeli policies after racist parties come to power in Israel.’’

The election outcome is the “natural result of years of rising extremism and racism in Israeli society,’’ he said in a statement, adding: “we had no illusions that the Israeli election would produce a partner for peace.’’

However, voter turnout was comparatively high, at 71.3 per cent of the approximately 6.8 million eligible voters when the polls had closed at 10:00 p.m. (2100 CET) on Tuesday.

Netanyahu, who is being investigated for corruption, is eyeing his second comeback as head of government.

The 73-year-old has been prime minister several times, for a total of more than a decade and a half – longer than anyone else in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu is seeking to form an ultra-right religious coalition that could help him pass legislation to avoid conviction.

The party landscape in Israel is highly fragmented and interest-driven, due in part to personal disputes and a low hurdle to enter parliament, even parties from similar camps were often unable to form alliances. (dpa)

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