A final count of ballots cast in Tuesday’s national elections bumped the Meretz party up to five seats in the 20th Knesset, and dropped the Joint List of Arab parties to 13, while leaving the far-right Yachad party out of the Knesset.
After a tallying of 99.88 percent of the ballots, Likud took 984,966 votes, compared to the Zionist Union’s 786,075.
The final count will be declared official on March 25, the Central Elections Committee said in a statement Thursday.
The Likud won 30 seats, the Zionist Union 24, Joint List 13, Yesh Atid 11, Kulanu 10, Jewish Home eight, Shas seven, Yisrael Beytenu six, United Torah Judaism six, and Meretz five.
Absentee ballots from soldiers, prisoners, medical personnel, those with medical conditions and Israeli representatives in missions abroad were counted Thursday, moving one seat from the Joint List to Meretz and giving the Green Leaf party a slight boost.
On Wednesday, when it looked like Meretz had four seats, party head Zahava Gal-on said she would prepare to resign.
“If, in the final results, it turns out that Meretz got only 4 seats, then I will resign from the Knesset in favor of Tamar Zandberg,” Gal-on said, referring to No. 5 on the faction list.
The final tally left Yachad, headed by Shas defector Eli Yishai, some 10,000 votes shy of the 136,808 needed to get into the Knesset.
The pro-marijuana Green Leaf party managed 47,156 votes, or 1.12% of ballots cast.
A slew of smaller special interest parties garnered anywhere from a few thousand to a few hundred votes, including the upstart Uvizchutan party of ultra-Orthodox females, which only collected 1,977 votes.
In last place was Manhigut Hevrati, or social leadership, with 223 backers.
In total, 4,253,336 votes were cast, representing 72.3% of the voting public, though 43,869 votes were declared invalid.
As votes were counted late Tuesday and early Wednesday, after a close-fought campaign, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party confounded expectations and won 30 of the 120 seats in parliament, against 24 for Isaac Herzog’s center-left Zionist Union.
It was a victory Netanyahu himself described as “against all the odds,” proving him once again to be Israel’s master of political brinkmanship.
“I am moved by the weight of the responsibility the people of Israel have placed on my shoulders,” he said on a visit to the Western Wall, the holiest site for Jewish prayer.
“I appreciate this decision, of the citizens of Israel, to elect me and my partners.”
After Herzog conceded defeat, the Netanyahu camp set about forming a new government “within two to three weeks.”
It said Netanyahu had already spoken with right-wing and religious party leaders whose support he will need to form a coalition.
Netanyahu is likely to favor a narrow right-wing/ultra-Orthodox coalition, with the support of kingmaker Moshe Kahlon, a Likud defector whose newly formed center-right Kulanu party won 10 seats.
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