Early exit polls put Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party at the head of today’s vote.
The Israeli prime minister looked positioned to win his fourth term as leader, third consecutive, as many Israeli media outlets predicted Bibi will take 28 seats in the Knesset.
Other agencies predicted a dead heat between Likud and the Zionist Union, a partnering between Labor and Hatnuah, giving both factions 27 seats.
Israelis vote based on party, with the head of the party that gains the most seats typically called on to form a coalition government. If a majority coalition can be built, meaning at least 61 seats, a new prime minister is named.
Outside the early exit polls, analysts were already predicting that if Netanyahu does indeed walk away with 28 seats, he will be within easy reach of a coalition, with parties like Jewish Home, Yisrael Beytenu, and Shas as likely joiners. Kulanu and United Torah Judaism are also contenders for the coalition, which would put Bibi at a likely 63 seats.
The result was slightly surprising–recent days saw Netanyahu’s numbers fall while the opposition Labor party grew in popularity. Bibi’s recent speech at Congress negatively affected him in the polls, but this week he gained traction with rightist supporters with some hardline talk about opposing a Palestinian state.
While these predictions are being made across the board in Israeli media, final tallies could take as long as two days, with even more time needed to declare an official coalition.