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ISRAEL

Exit polls indicate no clear winner in election

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2021 | 12:10 AM

JERUSALEM (AP):

Exit polls indicate that there is no clear winner in Tuesday’s Israeli election, leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fate uncertain and signalling continued political deadlock.

The polls on Israel’s three main TV stations showed Netanyahu and his religious and nationalist allies, as well as diverse array of opponents, both falling short of a parliamentary majority. That could set the stage for weeks of paralysis and even an unprecedented fifth consecutive election. Exit polls are often imprecise and the official results may not be known for days.

The exit polls conducted by Channels 11, 12 and 13 were nearly identical, showing Netanyahu and his allies with 53-54 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament. His opponents were projected to win 59, and Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party was projected to win seven to eight seats.

If the final results are in line with the exit polls, both sides will have to court Bennett, a former Netanyahu ally with strained relations with the prime minister, to form a majority of at least 61 seats.

Bennett shares Netanyahu’s hard-line nationalist ideology, but has signalled he would be open to cooperating with his rivals if given the chance to be prime minister.

The election is widely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s divisive rule, and once again, opinion polls had forecast an extremely tight race.

The three-month campaign was largely devoid of substantive issues and focused heavily on Netanyahu’s personality and whether he should remain in office. In contrast to past elections where he faced off against a clear rival, this time a diverse array of parties is trying to topple him, having little in common beyond their shared animosity towards him.