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Israel exit polls show Netanyahu, Gantz in tight race

AFP , Tuesday 17 Sep 2019
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger Benny Gantz were neck and neck in the country's general election after polls closed on Tuesday, exit surveys showed.

Three separate exit polls carried by Israeli television stations showed Netanyahu's right-wing Likud and Gantz's centrist Blue and White alliance with between 31 and 34 parliament seats each out of 120.

Ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman's nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, who could play a kingmaker role, had between eight and 10 seats, according to the polls.

The polls showed Likud with 33, 32 or 31 seats compared to Blue and White's 34, 32 and 33 seats.

If the exit polls are reasonably accurate -- and they have in the past been signficantly off base -- either Netanyahu or Gantz will face tough negotiations to form a government.

Tuesday's elections came only five months after polls in April.

Netanyahu's Likud along with its right-wing and religious allies won a majority of seats then, but the prime minister failed to form a coalition and opted for an unprecedented second election.

Lieberman recommended Netanyahu for prime minister after the April vote, but it is not clear he will do so again.

Turnout as of 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) was at 63.7 percent, higher than the April elections by that time, official figures showed.

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