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Exit polls show Netanyahu expected to return to power

Likud Party chairman and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) looks set to return to power as Israel's next prime minister, according to exit polls from that country’s election Tuesday night. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Likud Party chairman and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) looks set to return to power as Israel's next prime minister, according to exit polls from that country’s election Tuesday night. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

A voter casts his ballot at a polling station in Jerusalem on November 1, 2022. Israelis are voting in their fifth general election since 2019. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks set to return to power, according to exit polls from that country's election Tuesday night.

Netanyahu and his Likud party join with the Religious Zionist Party, United Torah Judaism, and Shas to form a coalition, which has reached the minimum 61 seats required to form a government, the Jerusalem Post reports.

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Some polls have given the coalition 62 seats, with the Likud party capturing 30 of those.

Voter turnout sat at 66.3% as of 8 p.m. IST on Tuesday. Early turnout reached record highs as the former prime minister attempts to return to the country's highest office.

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Some 38.9% of eligible voters had voted as of 2 p.m, the highest figure at that time since 1999, according to the country's Central Elections Committee.

Voters are choosing between a right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu and the current governing alliance of right-wing, left-wing and centrist parties that share little beyond their opposition to the former prime minister.

The Religious Zionist Party saw a dramatic rise in support, with exit polls reporting it had captured 14 seats.

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It remains to be seen if enough left or centrists can land seats to form a coalition and keep Netanyahu out of power.

Results will be formalized in the coming days.

Israel's parliament or Knesset was dissolved over the summer, setting the stage for the November election. At the time, then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett -- who succeeded Netanyahu after the previous election -- turned the post over to Yair Lapid on an interim basis.

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Bennett has said he will not lead his conservative Yamina Party in the new elections. Instead, interior minister Ayelet Shaked will be at the top of the Yamina ticket.

Netanyahu served as Israel's prime minister between 1996 and 1999 and again from 2009 to 2021.

Netanyahu has been on trial over charges of fraud and breach of trust, but has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, offering unsubstantiated claims that the charges against him are evidence of a political witch hunt led by his opponents.

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