Final votes being counted as Netanyahu scrapes ahead

Final votes being counted as Netanyahu scrapes ahead

As 96% of the votes have been counted, it appears that Likud is going to take the win with 37 seats compared to Blue and White's 36.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara declare victory. (Photo: Aloni Mor)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara declare victory. (Photo: Aloni Mor)

As 96% of the votes have been counted, it appears that Likud is going to take the win with 37 seats compared to Blue and White’s 36. However as this dramatic election has shown, anything could change as the final percentage is counted.

As more and more exit polls began to be published, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory at a Likud rally at around 2am.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares victory at a Likud party rally early on April 10, 2019. (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem)

Earlier polls that showed Blue and White as leading by as many as four seats and party chairman Benny Gantz also held a victory rally.

Netanyahu claimed victory, because his Right-Centre bloc won handily over Gantz’s Centre-Left bloc in polls broadcast on Channel 13 and KAN, 66 to 54 and 64 to 56, respectively. In Channel 12’s poll, the blocs were even at 60 seats.

“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.”

On the other hand, Gantz announced that he won the race, because in the Channel 12 poll, Blue and White received 37 seats and Likud 33. In the KAN poll, the victory margin was 37 to 36. The 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, United Torah Judaism, Kulanu and the Union of Right-Wing Parties announced late Tuesday that they would recommend Netanyahu to form the government.

Kahlon and Liberman said they would only decide when the final results are in.

Labor and Meretz will recommend Gantz.

The surprise of the election was that former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut Party did not cross the 3.25% threshold, according to the exit polls. But party officials said their supporters did not cooperate with the exit polls and the results in the ballot box would be very different.

UTJ’s Moshe Gafni said he spoke to Netanyahu minutes after the exit polls were released, and that he would recommend him to be tasked with forming the next government when he meets in the coming days with President Reuven Rivlin.

Several Likud ministers and top candidates were on hand at the party’s election event to respond to the polls and tried to take a similarly optimistic approach to the results.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said “the picture appears to be that the national camp won and the right-wing bloc can form the next government. That is what represents the will of most of the public and not the biggest party, which destroyed Labor.”

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu crossed the threshold, while MK Orly Levy-Abecassis’s Gesher did not.

The polls were inconclusive on the fate of the New Right of Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, which did not cross the threshold, according to the Channel 12 and KAN polls but narrowly did, according to Channel 13.

One of the stories of the election was apparently low turnout in the Arab sector. Hadash-Ta’al won six to seven seats in the polls. United Arab List-Balad did not cross the threshold in two of them.

Netanyahu spent most of the day trying to convince people that voter turnout is dangerously low for the Likud. He posted a new video on his Facebook page every hour warning that “the right-wing government is in danger!”

In the afternoon, Netanyahu went to the Poleg Beach in Netanya to tell voters to stop lollygagging and go vote.

“A lot of people went to the beach, but if they stay on the beach and don’t go vote, they’ll wake up with [Blue and White co-leader Yair] Lapid as prime minister of a left-wing government,” he warned. “If they want to continue with a Likud government with me at the head, they need to vote. Go to the beach later!”

Netanyahu also claimed that Blue and White activists were vandalising Likud voting slips so that they are not usable.

In another video, Netanyahu spoke to one voter after another: “Go house by house, person by person, make phone calls, send WhatsApp, text messages, get every last voter,” he told Michael in Ramle after 8 p.m.

In a phone conversation with Bet Shemesh Mayor Aliza Bloch, he told her to try to get out the vote, and she said she’s making an effort as long as Netanyahu promises to make Bet Shemesh a great city.

Netanyahu then warned that in 1992, a general – Yitzhak Rabin – won an election and signed the Oslo Accords and in 1999, another general – Ehud Barak – won and the Second Intifada started under his watch, a common refrain of the Likud campaign.

“Yair Lapid is writing a victory speech,” an adviser warned off camera. 


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