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Netanyahu Rival Would Be Kingmaker in New Knesset

But another right-wing government is still the most likely outcome.

Israeli parliament Jerusalem
View of the Knesset in Israel, Jerusalem, April 8, 2009 (Israel Tourism)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is projected to place first in Israel’s parliamentary election with 31 to 33 seats, down from 37.

Yamina, a new right-wing party led by former economy minister Naftali Bennett, would hold the balance of power in the new Knesset with seven or eight seats, according to exit polls.

61 seats are needed for a majority.

Blocs

The pro-Netanyahu bloc would win 53 or 54 seats against 59 for the center-left and Arab parties that oppose him.

Center-left Jewish parties have in the past balked at forming coalitions with the Arabs.

Bennet, despite his falling-out with Netanyahu, is also unlikely to give the left a majority. Atlantic Sentinel contributor Ariel Reichard, who is based in Tel Aviv, told me earlier today that Bennet had explicitly ruled out forming a government with left-wing parties in an attempt to sway conservative voters.

Another right-wing coalition, including Orthodox Jewish parties, looks to be the most likely outcome.

Turnout

Turnout was under 61 percent at 8 PM local time, the lowest since 2009. Turnout was especially low among Arab voters. Projections are that fewer than half went to the polls.

This plays into Netanyahu’s hands, according to Reichard: Likud has surplus agreements with other right-wing parties. Any votes they have “left over” that aren’t enough for a seat go to Likud, which, especially when turnout is low, could easily give it one or two extra seats.

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