Netanyahu set for 5th term | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 11, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, April 11, 2019

Netanyahu set for 5th term

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on path for victory in Israel’s election yesterday after nearly complete results put him in position to form a right-wing coalition and further extend his long tenure in office.

The results from Tuesday’s vote came despite corruption allegations against the 69-year-old premier and put him on track to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister later this year. It will be his record fifth term as premier. 

His Likud party looked set to finish with a similar number of seats in parliament to his main rival, ex-military chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance, Israeli media reported.

But with 97 percent of the votes counted, results showed the Likud and other right-wing parties allied to him with some 65 seats in the 120-seat parliament.

The results would seem to leave President Reuven Rivlin, whose task is to ask one of the candidates to form a government, with little choice but to pick Netanyahu.

Intensive coalition negotiations will follow and could drag on for days or even weeks.

Final results are expected by this afternoon, with ballots for soldiers and other special categories of voters yet to be counted.

The close race between the two main parties had led to uncertainty after polls closed on Tuesday night and exit surveys were released.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz claimed victory after the initial exit surveys that gave Blue and White the most seats.

But even then Netanyahu appeared best placed to form a coalition, with both parties in any case falling far short of an outright majority.

The election was in many ways a referendum on the premier who has built a reputation as guarantor of the country’s security and economic growth, but whose populism and alleged corruption left many ready for change.

He engaged in populist rhetoric that critics said amounted to the demonisation of Arab Israelis and others.

True to form, Netanyahu issued a deeply controversial pledge only three days before the election, saying he planned to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank should he win.

Extending Israeli sovereignty on a large scale in the West Bank could be the death knell to already fading hopes for a two-state solution with the Palestinians. The turnout of voters was 67.9 percent compared to 71.8 percent in the last election in 2015. 

Netanyahu has been premier for a total of more than 13 years.

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