Gantz holds narrow lead over Netanyahu in Israeli election

4 weeks ago

Sept. 18 (UPI) — The parties of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opponent Benny Gantz are locked in a close race that challenges the leader’s 10-year hold on power in Jerusalem.

Preliminary results show Gantz’s Blue and White Party held a one-seat lead in the Knesset early Wednesday over incumbent Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

More than 90 percent of ballots had been counted. If the current split holds, whoever wins may not be able to form a majority government.

By 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Blue and White Party had recorded 25.7 percent of the vote while the Likud Party notched 25 percent. Gantz, if the figures hold, would be expected to be chosen as the next Israeli leader. Netanyahu has held the post since 2009.

The Blue and White Party is projected to win 32 seats and Likud 31. By early Wednesday afternoon, about 25,000 votes separated the two with fewer than 500,000 ballots left to count.

The right-wing bloc that includes Likud, Yamina, UTJ and Shas is projected to win 55 seats in the Knesset, down from the 60 it secured in the last vote in April. The left-wing bloc, led by Gantz’s party, is projected to win 56. If neither secures the 61 seats needed for an outright majority, Israel could stage a third election.

The Knesset dissolved and Netanyahu ordered the Tuesday election after he was not able to form a coalition government following the vote in the spring.

The tallies varied greatly among Israel’s largest cities. In Tel Aviv, 43 percent of voters favored the Blue and White Party and just 19 percent the Likud Party. In Jerusalem, 25 percent of votes went to the Ashkenazic-haredi UTJ party, 23 percent to Netanyahu’s and 12 percent to Gantz’s.

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