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Netanyahu leads Israel elections without majority, exit polls say

Once again Netanyahu needs coalition partner to become PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is leading in Knesset elections but has failed to secure a solid parliamentary majority, according to the results of exit polls announced late yesterday by Israeli TV channels.

Channel 13 said Likud gained 31 seats and was ahead of the other parties but lacked the required majority.

It added that Netanyahu's camp, comprising Likud and allied right-wing parties, gained 54 seats out of 120, while the opposition camp gained 59, with the right-wing Yamina party securing seven.

According to Channel 12, Netanyahu's camp gained 53 seats, while the opposition camp won 59 and the Yamina party eight.

Channel 11 meanwhile said Netanyahu's camp secured 54 seats, while the opposition camp gained 59, with the Yamina party winning seven.

The Joint List alliance of Arab parties led by Ayman Odeh gained eight seats according to both Channels 13 and 11, while it secured nine seats according to Channel 12.

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The United Arab List headed by Mansour Abbas failed to pass the electoral threshold according to all of the channels, which represents a clear setback for the Arab lawmakers, who secured 15 seats in the previous Knesset when they ran under the Joint List slate.

According to Israeli Channel 12, Likud gained 31 seats, Yesh Atid 18, the Joint List nine, Shas nine, Yamina eight, Blue and White seven, Labor seven, Religious Zionism seven, United Torah Judaism six, New Hope six, Yisrael Beiteinu six and Meretz six.

While Channel 13 said the distribution of the party seats is as follows: Likud has 33 seats, Yesh Atid 16, the Joint List eight, Shas eight, Yamina seven, Blue and White eight, Labor seven, Religious Zionism six, United Torah Judaism seven, New Hope five, Yisrael Beiteinu eight and Meretz seven.

Channel 11's predictions were not far from those of Channel 12: Likud 31 seats, Yesh Atid 18, Joint List eight, Shas nine, Yamina seven, Blue and White seven, Labor seven, Religious Zionism seven, United Torah Judaism seven, New Hope six, Yisrael Beiteinu seven and Meretz six.

The official results are expected to be revealed by Friday and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will consult with party leaders about their preference for prime minister. By 7 April he is expected to choose the legislator with the best chance of putting together a coalition.

That nominee has up to 42 days to form a government. If he or she fails, the president asks another politician to try.

READ: Israel shuts West Bank crossings ahead of elections

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