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Netanyahu's Likud Party Emerges as Election Winner


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters In Tel Aviv. Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters In Tel Aviv. Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party emerged as the clear leader in Israel's parliamentary elections early Wednesday as he seeks a fourth term in office.

With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, Likud was set to win 30 seats compared to the 24 seats for its main challenger, the Zionist Union.

Netanyahu has already declared victory for his conservative party, writing on Facebook that Likud won "against all odds."

Thirty seats would be far below the 61 needed to have an outright majority in the 120-member body. Israel will move into a process of coalition talks, with Netanyahu and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog seeking the backing of enough smaller parties to become prime minister.

Herzog said he will have to see what other parties win seats before he can look at "what kind of government we can form."

The smaller parties range from communists to orthodox Jews to the United Arab List -- four Arab-led parties which joined forces and could wind up being a valuable asset. Exit polls gave the United Arab List 13 seats.

Prime Minister Netanyahu campaigned on what his backers say is his strong record of keeping Israel secure. He reversed his policy this week and now says he will not support a Palestinian state.

Herzog warned voters that the prime minister would be leading an extremist government that will "tear Israel apart." Herzog said Israel should negotiate with the Palestinians.

VOA's Scott Bobb, who is in Jerusalem covering the election, says this could be the heaviest turnout in an Israeli election in "quite some time."

"That is being attributed to the tight race between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and the opposition Labor-led center-left alliance led by Isaac Herzog. But other issues are also involved, in that there is a contest on the right side between the right-wing parties and on the left between the left-wing parties, and many say that it will be the center-left parties, a couple of smaller parties, that may be the ones that are the kingmakers of this election,” said Bobb.

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