Gantz's Blue and White Party Leads Elections as 97% of Ballots Counted

Published September 19th, 2019 - 11:46 GMT
From R to L: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli president of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut and Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, attend a memorial ceremony for late Israeli president Shimon Peres, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. (AFP/ File Photo)
From R to L: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli president of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut and Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, attend a memorial ceremony for late Israeli president Shimon Peres, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. (AFP/ File Photo)

Elections officials are getting near the end of their count in Israel Thursday, where the parties of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and challenger Benny Gantz are still locked in a tight race.

With about 97 percent of ballots counted, officials said, Gantz's Blue and White Party holds a slim lead over Netanyahu's Likud Party -- with 33 seats to 31.

Thursday, Netanyahu called for Gantz to help establish a broad unity government, as neither party won the requisite number of seats (61) for a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Among the uncounted ballots are about 180,000 from foreign diplomats, military forces, handicapped citizens, hospital patients and staff and prisoners.

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The Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties is in third place with 13 seats -- followed by the ultra-Orthodox Shas party with nine, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu with eight, Yamina with seven, Labor-Gesher six and the Democratic Camp five.

The parties considered center-left have the most seats with 57, and the more conservative block 55.

Netanyahu, who has been in power for a decade, said he doesn't want to stage a third election. He said he's reflected on former Israeli leader Shimon Peres, who formed a unity government with Yitzchak Shamir in the 1980s after neither side secured a majority bloc.

"During the elections, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government," Netanyahu said. "But unfortunately, the results of the elections show that this was not possible."

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin applauded Netanyahu's call for unity.

"I hear the voices calling for establishment of a broad and stable unity government and I congratulate you, Mr. Prime Minister, on joining this morning to this call," he said.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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