Netanyahu set for record fifth term
JERUSALEM- Agence France-Presse
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on path for victory in Israel's election on April 10 after nearly complete results put him in position to form a right-wing coalition and further extend his long tenure in office.
The results from April 9's vote came despite corruption allegations against the 69-year-old premier and put him on track to become Israel's longest-serving prime minister later this year.
His Likud party looked set to finish with a similar number of seats in parliament to his main rival, ex-military chief Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White alliance, Israeli media reported.
But with 98 percent of the votes counted, results showed the Likud and other right-wing parties allied to him with some 65 seats in the 120-seat parliament.
The results would seem to leave President Reuven Rivlin, whose task it is to ask one of the candidates to form a government, with little choice but to pick Netanyahu.
Intensive coalition negotiations will follow and could drag on for days or even weeks.
Final results were expected on April 11, with ballots for soldiers and other special categories of voters yet to be counted.
The close race between the two main parties had led to uncertainty after polls closed on Tuesday night and exit surveys were released.
Both Netanyahu and Gantz claimed victory after the initial exit surveys that gave Blue and White the most seats.
But even then Netanyahu appeared best placed to form a coalition, with both parties, in any case, falling far short of an outright majority.
Netanyahu spoke in the early hours of April 10 at the Likud's post-election party in Tel Aviv and called it a "magnificent victory."
As he walked onto the stage to chanting crowds, he planted a kiss to his wife Sara.
"It will be a right-wing government, but I will be prime minister for all," he said.
Earlier while addressing cheering supporters who waved Israeli flags at an event hall in Tel Aviv, Gantz called it a "historic day."
Speaking to journalists outside his home on April 10 morning, Gantz said "we're waiting until the end of the results."
"This is a historic accomplishment. There has never been a party so large, so significant, with so many good people that was founded in such a short period of time."
The vote had long been expected to be close, even with Netanyahu facing potential corruption charges.
Fighting for his political life, Netanyahu spent the weeks ahead of the vote campaigning furiously to energize his right-wing base.