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Exit polls suggest Netanyahu doing well but Israeli election too close to call

Exit polls following Israel’s fourth general election in under two years are pointing to another very close result, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comfortably on track to lead the largest party in parliament, but facing an anxious wait to see if his preferred coalition allies secure enough support to make building a new government straightforward.

In a moment of ritualized drama, and with no little fanfare, Israel’s main three TV networks published their exit poll projections within a minute of polling stations closing at 10 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET). They showed Netanyahu’s Likud projected to secure between 31 and 33 seats, down from 36 in the last election, but still comfortably ahead of main opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid party is predicted to secure between 16 and 18 seats.

Beneath these two parties, a total of 10 more are currently projected to secure representation in parliament, among them Gideon Saar’s New Hope on track for about five or six seats, and Naftali Bennett’s Yamina, projected to win about seven or eight seats. Both men are right-wingers, seen as ideologically close to Netanyahu; Saar, however, has ruled out sitting with Netanyahu in government, while Bennett has been more circumspect about his intentions.

Exit poll projections in Israel always come with a health warning and this year is no exception. For a start, there are a number of parties hovering close to the electoral threshold of 3.25%, meaning they could go from four seats to zero seats if their final tally ends up beneath the threshold.

In addition, voting requirements for those with coronavirus, as well as people in quarantine, provide an additional unknown element for the exit pollsters; at the very least, it is expected to slow down the counting process.

This is a breaking story, more to follow.

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