JERUSALEM – Israel appeared headed into another political stalemate on Wednesday after nearly-complete results indicated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had failed to secure a clear majority for a right-wing bloc in parliament, despite his claim of victory.
With 99pc of votes counted, Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party was seen taking 35 of parliament’s 120 seats, down from 36 initially projected after Monday’s election. His centrist challenger, Benny Gantz, was seen holding steady at 32 seats for his Blue and White party.
Israeli premiers generally need a coalition commanding 61 seats for their governments to survive. Wednesday’s tally suggested that, with like-minded parties, a Netanyahu coalition could now expect to garner only 58.
The four-term leader has been hamstrung by corruption cases in which he denies wrongdoing. Gantz has cited Netanyahu’s unprecedented indictment in refusing to join him in a coalition.
Yet Gantz, a former general who leads the centrist Blue and White party, seemed no closer to clinching a coalition, given ideological differences in a camp of Netanyahu-naysayers which includes ultranationalist ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman and Arab-Israeli parties.
That could spell further deadlock and another snap election to follow Monday’s vote, which was Israel’s third in a year.
Netanyahu had claimed victory on Tuesday. Some Israeli commentators ridiculed that, on Wednesday, as “fake news”.
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