Netanyahu's Likud wins Israeli election
Updated: 2015-03-18 14:49
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv March 18, 2015.[Photo/Agencies]
TEL AVIV, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party scored a resounding victory in the country's election, final results showed Wednesday, after a tight race that had put his lengthy rule in jeopardy.
With nearly all the votes counted, Likud appeared to have earned 30 out of parliament's 120 seats, in a position to be able to build a coalition government with its right-wing and religious allies with relative ease.
The election was widely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu, who has governed the country for the past six years. Recent opinion polls indicated he was in trouble, giving chief rival Isaac Herzog of the opposition Zionist Union a slight lead.
Exit polls showed the two sides deadlocked but once the actual results came pouring in early Wednesday, Likud soared forward. Zionist Union wound up with just 24 seats.
Previously, Netanyahu has already declared victory but opposition leader Isaac Herzog said he refused to concede.
"Against all odds we have achieved a great victory for the Likud party and the national camp," Netanyahu said during a speech on Tuesday night at the Tel Aviv Convention Center, citing an exit poll that showed a narrow lead for his party over the Zionist Union camp led by Herzog.
Netanyahu said he would act promptly to establish a "strong and stable government" that would look for the "security and well-being of all Israeli citizens."
"I've spoken to the heads of the national camp and called them to join me and form a government as soon as possible, because reality does not take timeout," Netanyahu said.
Hours later on Wednesday, Herzog said he refused to admit defeat.
Citing exit polls that showed him tied with Netanyahu in Tuesday's elections, Herzog called on smaller parties to join a "socially-conscious government" headed by the Zionist Union.
"We achieved something extraordinary today," Herzog told cheering supporters as they chanted: "hoo-ha here's the next prime minister!"
Herzog said these were the best results the party had achieved in years. "These results will bring us back into power," he said.
Herzog said that the results are not final yet, as some parties are on the edge of the electoral threshold and that could change the number of seats other parties have won.