High voter turnout; Right pulls out narrow victory

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 |  Israel Today Staff  

As the polls closed in Israel's 2013 general election, officials recorded high voter turnout, and exit polls showed a very narrow victory for the currently ruling right-wing parties.

At least 64 percent of eligible Israeli voters turned out on Tuesday, the highest turnout since the hotly contested 1999 election.

As expected, exit polls showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party will remain the largest faction in the Knesset, but the results were far from impressive for the ruling party.

According to exit polls, the combined Likud-Israel Beiteinu faction won just 31 seats in the next Knesset, and the right-wing overall will control 61 seats to the left's 59.

That means that while Netanyahu will still likely be the obvious choice to form the next government, he won't have an easy time forging a stable coalition.

The other surprise was that the Yesh Atid party, headed by popular former television personality Yair Lapid, will apparently be the second largest Knesset faction with 18-19 seats, having nudged out the Labor Party, which polls show won 17 seats.

That might actually make things easier on Netanyahu, as Lapid has signaled he is ready to join a coalition with Likud, whereas Labor leader Shelley Yechimovich rejected such a possibility while on the campaign trail.

The Jewish Home party under charismatic new leader Naftali Bennett polled at a somewhat disappointing 12 seats, after surveys leading up to the election predicted it would do much better.

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