JERUSALEM, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged early Wednesday as the decisive winner of Israel's parliamentary election, showed official results after 99 percent of the ballots having been counted.
Israel's ruling right-wing Likud party won 30 seats in the 120-member parliament and beat opposition leader Isaac Herzog's Zionist Union, which won only 24 seats.
The Joint List came in third with 14 seats, a landmark result for the newly-formed alliance of Arab parties, which ran together for the first time.
Centrist Yesh Atid, headed by former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, won 11 seats, followed by the new center party Kulanu, which won 10 seats.
The ultra-nationalist Jewish Home garnered eight seats, followed by Shas with seven seats, United Torah Judaism with six seats, Yisrael Beitenu with six seats, and leftist Meretz with four.
The final results are expected to be released later Wednesday by the Israeli Central Elections Committee.
Turnout was 71.8 percent, 4 percentage points higher than in the previous elections in 2013.
Last night's exit polls indicated a tie between Netanyahu and his Zionist Union rival, following by weeks in which he was trailing behind Herzog in the opinion polls.
But in a dramatic turn overnight, Netanyahu opened a six-seat lead over Herzog, which guaranteed the 65-year-old hardliner a fourth term in office and a third consecutive term.
However, Netanyahu will still have to work hard to form a new coalition with at least 61 members, as required under the Israeli parliamentary system.
Netanyahu announced his victory in a speech in Tel Aviv late Tuesday, after exit polls showed a narrow lead to his party over the Zionist Union camp.
"Against all odds we have achieved a great victory to the Likud party and the national camp," Netanyahu told supporters at the Tel Aviv Convention Center.
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.
TEL AVIV, Israel, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Official results showed the Likud party led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won a clear victory in Tuseday's elections, with 99 percent of votes counted early Wednesday morning.Full Story