Netanyahu closes gap: Likud leads Zionist Union in 1 exit poll, tied in 2 others

Polls close in elections for the 20th Knesset, first numbers released.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
March 17, 2015 22:06
2 minute read.
Elections graph

Elections graph. (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)

 
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The first exit polls were released Tuesday at 10 p.m. as voting closed in elections for the 20th Knesset, suggesting a surprisingly good showing for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party versus Isaac Herzog's Zionist Union. While Likud had trailed by as many as five mandates in pre-election polls, Netanyahu's party led the Zionist Union in one exit poll and was tied with Herzog's party in the two others.

Channel 2's poll had the Likud with 28  mandates, Zionist Union with 27 mandates, the Joint Arab List with 13 mandates, Yesh Atid with 11 mandates, Kulanu with 10 mandates, Bayit Yehudi with 8 mandates, Shas with 7 mandates, United Torah Judaism with 6 mandates, Meretz with 5 mandates, Yisrael Beytenu with 5 mandates and Yahad failing to pass the electoral threshold.

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Channel 10's polls had the Zionist Union with 27 mandates, the Likud with 27  mandates, the Joint Arab List with 13 mandates, Yesh Atid with 11 mandates, Kulanu with10 mandates, Bayit Yehudi with 8 mandates, Shas with 7 mandates, United Torah Judaism with 7 mandates, Meretz with 5 mandates, Yisrael Beytenu with 5 mandates and Yahad failing to pass the electoral threshold.

Channel 1's polls had the Zionist Union with 27 mandates, the Likud with 27  mandates, the Joint Arab List with 13 mandates, Yesh Atid with 12 mandates, Kulanu with 10 mandates, Bayit Yehudi with 9 mandates, Shas with 7 mandates, United Torah Judaism with 6 mandates, Meretz with 5 mandates, Yisrael Beytenu with 5 mandates and Yahad failing to pass the electoral threshold.

Israeli law does not allow for exit polls to be published prior to the closure of the polls. The actual polling data was expected to be released throughout the night as the ballots are counted.

Voter turnout  appeared to be slightly higher than in the  2013 election, with 65.7 percent of eligible voters having cast their ballots as of 8 p.m. At the same point in the 2013 election, 63.9% of voters had cast ballots as of 8 p.m.

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Once all of the final numbers are tallied, the process of coalition-building will begin. President Reuven Rivlin will ask all of the party heads for recommendations on who they want to form the coalition. With such close numbers between the top two parties, it will likely prove a difficult process to put together either a left- or right-wing coalition.

The release of the initial exit polls came after a contentious last day of a hard-fought campaign that saw Herzog's Zionist Union ahead by as many as five mandates in the final pre-election polls released Friday. Despite his lead in the polls throughout the late stages of the election campaign, analysts saw Herzog having difficulty garnering the at least 61 mandates needed from among a slew of smaller parties in order to form a coalition.

Herzog's Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni said Monday that she was prepared to forgo a rotation agreement with Herzog in the prime minister's office if it proved to be a stumbling block in forming a coalition.

Both Herzog and Netanyahu have spoken out against forming a unity coalition consisting of both parties that would see a rotation agreement between the two men. However, Nafatli Bennett's right-wing Bayit Yehudi party and Yair Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid said that Livni's move suggests that such a unity government may be in the works.

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