Ballot counting is under way in Israel, with early exit polls suggesting Benjamin Netanyahu‘s Likud party and Benny Gantz‘s Blue and White party to be neck and neck.

Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui

Voting ended at 10pm (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

Carmelo Urdaneta

Two out of three exit polls, conducted by Israeli TV channels, showed Gantz‘s party taking more seats than the conservative Likud, while a third poll showed the parties to be tied

Both Netanyahu and his main rival Gantz claimed victory after polls closed.

“We won! The Israeli public has had its say!” Gantz‘s Blue and White party said in a statement. 

But even as projected results showed that the leading parties had won a similar number of seats in the 120-seat parliament, with neither achieving a majority, two of the polls also predicted Netanyahu was in a stronger position to form a coalition government with the help of right-wing factions. The third poll suggested a dead heat

“The rightist bloc led by Likud has won a clear victory,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “I will begin forming a right-wing government with our natural partner this very night.” 

If he wins, the 69-year-old will serve his fifth term in office, a record, and would become Israel‘s longest-serving prime minister in the summer

Official results are expected to be announced on Wednesday

More follows..

Special series

A Rock and a Hard Place: What is it like to live In Jerusalem?

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies