Tel Aviv, Mar 5: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday emerged as the front runner to become Israel's prime minister for a record fifth time, even as his right wing coalition fell just short of a clear majority.
His Likud Party led coalition has got 58 seats, just two short 61 in the 120 member Israeli Knesset. With 99 per cent of the votes counted by Thursday it became clear that the third election in Israel within a year failed to break the political deadlock that has plagued the country. Netanyahu reacted angrily to the result conceding that he did not have the parliamentary majority to form a new government right away .
"This is what the nation decided," he said. "The public gave me more votes than any other candidate for prime minister in the nation's history." The exit polls right after the elections had given Netanyahu and his nationalist-religious allies a clear majority and Netanyahu had thanked his supporters for the "great victory". But by Wednesday things did not look very good for the right wing coalition. Netanyahu's Likud Party is still the biggest party in parliament with 36 seats, three ahead of Benny Gantz'a Blue and White party which has 33 seats.
The Joint List, an umbrella group of Arab-led parties, finished third with 15 seats, an all-time high for Palestinian-majority electoral alliance. While the Arab parties have never been part of any Israeli coalition, they have supported policies from the outside, something they could do again if they can resolve their differences with Gantz whom they have described as being the other side of the same coin as Netanyahu.. Gantz however ruled out a partnership with the Joint List, making it unlikely he can cobble together a coalition either, according to a report by Al Jazeera.
With corruption charges intensifying against him Netanyahu was desperate for a strong showing in advance of his trial, scheduled to start on March 17. Netanyahu was indicted last year on fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges in three separate corruption cases. He denies any wrongdoing, blaming the liberal media and the justice system for trying to depose him. Israel's president will soon begin consultations with the elected parties, who will then recommend to him their preferred selection to lead the government.
Typically, the candidate with the most recommendations is asked to form a government. As leader of the largest party in parliament Netanyahu is likely to be asked to form the government, even though it is unclear how will he cobble up a working majority. According to political commentators the most straightforward way out of the deadlock would be a power-sharing deal between Gantz and Netanyahu, whose parties together control a parliamentary majority. But Gantz has ruled out a partnership as long as Netanyahu heads Likud.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, insists on being prime minister of any unity government. If neither candidate can form a government within the allotted time, Israel will be facing an unprecedented fourth election in a year. (UNI)