by Gil Hoffman, Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post Staff
Both Likud and Blue and White receive 35 seats but right-wing bloc has clear majority with 98% of votes counted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares victory at a Likud party rally early on April 10, 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won Tuesday's election and will be able to form a governing coalition able to withstand a bribery indictment by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, according to the results with 98% of the vote counted.
Mandelblit indicted Netanyahu pending a hearing on February 28, details of the indictment that were not permitted to be released during the election could be leaked as early as Wednesday. The hearing is expected to take place in July and the decision on the final indictment some six months later.
Likud won 35 seats, Shas and UTJ eight each and URP and Yisrael Beytenu five. Kulanu, whose leader Moshe Kahlon said he would join a Netanyahu-led government but leave following a final indictment, won four seats.
Blue and White won 35 seats, Labor and Hadash-Ta'al six each and Meretz and the United Arab List-Balad four each. The New Right, Zehut and Gesher did not cross the 3.25% electoral threshold. However as this dramatic election has shown, anything could change as the final votes from IDF soldiers, prisoners, hospitalized and diplomats are counted.
After an exit poll that earlier showed a Blue and White victory by four seats changed to a narrow win for Likud, Netanyahu declared victory at a Likud rally at around 2:00 AM.
“The right-wing bloc led by Likud clearly won,” Netanyahu said. “I thank Israeli citizens for their trust. I will begin forming a right-wing government with our natural partners already tonight.”
Gantz announced earlier that he won the race, because in a Channel 12 exit poll, Blue and White received 37 seats and Likud 33. In a KAN poll, the victory margin was 37 to 36. A Channel 13 poll found the two parties even at 36.
“We won!” Gantz and his number two Yair Lapid said in a joint statement. “The Israeli public has had their say! Thank you to the thousands of activists and over a million voters. These elections have a clear winner and a clear loser. Netanyahu promised 40 seats and lost. The president can see the picture and should call on the winner to form the next government. There is no other option!”
President Reuven Rivlin will meet with the heads of the parties that cross the threshold next week. Shas, UTJ and URP announced late Tuesday that they would recommend Netanyahu to form the government. Kahlon and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said they would wait for the final results.
Gil Hoffman, Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post Staff
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