Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clinched a clear victory early Wednesday morning in Israel’s general elections.
With some 97 percent of votes in Tuesday’s contest counted, his Likud party was tied with Blue and White, but his right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc held a decisive lead and Netanyahu was thus safely en route to forming a majority governing coalition.
With more than four million votes counted as of 9 a.m., Likud had snagged 26.27% of the vote, or 35 seats in the 120-seat legislature — the party’s best result since the 2003 election (when it won 38 seats under Ariel Sharon), and its best under Netanyahu.
Likud’s main rival in the election, the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, won 25.94% of the vote, which would also give it 35 seats, but had insufficient support from other parties to prevent Netanyahu staying in power for what will be a fifth term.
In actual numbers, only some 14,000 votes separated the two biggest parties.
No other party appeared to break double digits in number of seats.
With his Likud at 35, and five right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties managing to get some 30 seats together, Netanyahu could confidently work to form a government similar to his current right-wing coalition, with a solid 65 seats.
Read More: Times of Israel