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Netanyahu Wins … Sort Of

CBS reports on the Israeli elections:

JERUSALEM In a stunning setback, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line bloc fared worse than expected in a parliamentary election Tuesday, exit polls showed, possibly forcing the incumbent Israeli leader to invite surprisingly strong moderate rivals into his government and soften his line toward the Palestinians.

TV exit polls showed the hard-liners with about 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament, a bare majority, and the counts could change as actual votes are tallied.

The unofficial TV results had Netanyahu winning only 31 seats, though he combined his Likud Party with the far-right Yisrael Beitenu for the voting. Running separately four years ago, the two won 42 seats.

One vote, if this result holds when the actual ballots are counted, is not much of a margin in a parliamentary system, and Netanyahu will probably seek some padding by pursuing a partnership with at least one more party.

This is not the result he assumed and the media had predicted when he called the election. He was looking for a clear mandate. There is no guarantee that he will actually be the Prime Minister in the new government. In any case, it makes early elections almost a certainty.

Update: After the first actual count it is a tie, with Bibi & Company getting 60 seats, not 61. In Israel you vote for the party not the candidate, so there is no way to grab seats by cutting deals with individuals, it’s all about parties. The vote isn’t official yet, so it may change again.