Israeli PM Netanyahu looks set for election victory with near-equal early vote counts

Over 4 million Israelis cast ballots after bruising campaign, with final results showing Blue & White neck and neck with Likud, but PM with easier path to coalition

Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz claimed victory for their parties in tightly contested elections to the 21st Knesset. Netanyahu, however, appears more likely to form a coalition.

With about 95 percent of the votes counted, projections show Gantz’ Blue and White party and Netanyahu’s Likud tied with each capturing 35 seats in the Knesset.

However, 120 seats in the Knesset are up for grabs, and Netanyahu can likely count on the support of other right-wingers to form a coalition.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz have prematurely declared victory. Netanyahu claimed that the results show a “clear” victory for Likud and its allies, while Gantz put out a celebratory joint statement with running mate Yair Lapid.

“These elections have a clear winner and a clear loser,” he said. “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!”

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