Israel elections: Benjamin Netanyahu-led right wing bloc slips further away from majority as Benny Gantz-led party's tally rises to 33

Israelis voted on Monday for the third time in less than a year to break the deadlock on government formation, with the country's longest-serving premier Netanyahu fighting for his political survival amid indictments on graft charges, which he denies

Press Trust of India March 04, 2020 20:55:04 IST
Israel elections: Benjamin Netanyahu-led right wing bloc slips further away from majority as Benny Gantz-led party's tally rises to 33
  • Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu led right-wing bloc on Wednesday further slipped away from gaining a majority in Parliament, while his rival Benny Gantz's Blue and White party gained a seat

  • Blue and White party gained one seat at the expense of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, bringing the centrist party's tally to 33 seats and the Shas' to nine

  • The Israeli Arabs backed Joint List political alliance has emerged as the third largest party in Israel with 15 seats, as per the latest tally

Jerusalem: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu led right-wing bloc on Wednesday further slipped away from gaining a majority in Parliament, while his rival Benny Gantz's Blue and White party gained a seat, closing gaps with the ruling Likud party after 99 percent of the vote count.

Israelis voted on Monday for the third time in less than a year to break the deadlock on government formation, with the country's longest-serving premier Netanyahu fighting for his political survival amid indictments on graft charges, which he denies.

Israel elections Benjamin Netanyahuled right wing bloc slips further away from majority as Benny Gantzled partys tally rises to 33

File image of Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. AP

Netanyahu, 70, had support of 60 members in the 120-member house after the 9 April polls, the first out of the three within a year, but he could not manage to win just one more member to form a government.

The Central Election Committee (CEC) completed uploading 4,552,743 votes from 10,576 of the 10,631 regular polling stations, some 99.5 percent of all polling stations, and less than half of the absentee ballots, The Jerusalem Post reported. The results will only be made official next Monday, after a recount of some 25 polling stations where there were anomalies and problems, it added.

Netanyahu's bloc will remain at the 58 seats in the current vote count, three away from obtaining a 61-seat majority in the next Knesset, the paper said, citing sources in the CEC.

His Likud party, however, holds firm with 36 seats. Blue and White party gained one seat at the expense of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, bringing the centrist party's tally to 33 seats and the Shas' to nine. The Israeli Arabs backed Joint List political alliance has emerged as the third largest party in Israel with 15 seats, as per the latest tally.

The votes remaining to be counted are an estimated 3,40,000 absentee ballots from military polling stations, overseas diplomats and more than 4,000 votes cast at sixteen insulated polls for voters who are currently staying in quarantine due fears of spreading the deadly coronavirus.

Meanwhile, amid repetitive claims by Likud party officials that they have managed to convince parliamentarians from the Centrist and Left of Centre parties to switch sides and back Netanyahu, which have been denied by almost all of them, Gantz's Kahol Lavan party and the Labour-Meretz-Gesher coalition are considering to bring a legislation to prevent Netanyahu from serving as prime minister under indictment. This is under the assumption that majority of the lawmakers in the newly elected Knesset are opposed to him leading the next government even though they cannot come together to form a coalition as well.

"We'll have a majority in the new Knesset to pass a law preventing a prime minister from serving under indictment," Meretz leader, Nitzan Horowitz, was quoted by Ha'aretz as saying.  "It reflects the will of the public, and it's the moral thing to do," he stressed.

The move has been condemned by leaders from the right-wing bloc. Naftali Bennett, head of the Yamina party (part of Netanyahu's right-wing bloc) dubbed it "anti-democratic" amounting to "spitting in the face of half of the country". "Two days ago there were elections and they are already trying to circumvent the will the people," said Bennett, the defence minister.

Ultra-orthodox Shas party leader Arye Dery also lashed out at the initiative saying "passing a personal-tailored law to prevent Netanyahu from serving as prime minister after the public has expressed its faith him is a disgrace and breaking the rules of the political game".

Netanyahu on Tuesday began talks with lawmakers to form a "strong" national coalition government led by him. "This is a night of great victory," Netanyahu said in a victory speech at his party headquarters hours after exit polls showed his Likud had an upper hand.

He is now seeking a record fifth term, having been in office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009. The elections were largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu who will go on trial later this month for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, but is thought to be seeking support for a legislative mechanism to grant him immunity.

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