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Jerusalem: With over 84 per cent of the votes counted, Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-religious bloc on Wednesday seems all set to make a dramatic comeback to power.

The exit polls projected pro-Netanyahu parties may win up to 65 seats in the 120-member Parliament. The alliance comprised Netanyahu’s Likud party, Religious Zionism/Jewish Power, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

The Central Elections Committee has so far counted 4,081,243 votes, with 24,201 invalidated, The Times of Israel newspaper reported.

Based on the current count, Netanyahu’s bloc would pick up 65 seats, though this number may change as more ballots are processed, the report said.

Israelis voted on Tuesday for an unprecedented fifth time in four years to break the political impasse that has paralysed the country.

The left-wing Meretz party is currently a hair short of the 3.25% vote minimum needed to win Knesset representation, with 3.2%.

The opposition Arab Balad party is also closing in on the threshold with 3.05% of total votes.

The Islamist Ra’am party, projected to win four seats in exit polls, is currently well over the electoral threshold at 4.35%, according to the current count, as is Hadash-Ta’al with 3.92%.

If Ra’am, Balad, or Meretz fail to win Knesset representation it will further boost Netanyahu’s prospects for forming a coalition, but if all three make it, it could stymie his chances.

The ongoing count is not representative of the overall vote since ballots come in from different areas of the country at different times, and the percentages allotted to each party will likely shift as the tally continues.

Exit polls have predicted 62 seats for Netanyahu’s bloc, enough to secure a majority and form a coalition in Knesset.

Israel has been locked in an unprecedented period of political stalemate since 2019, when 73-year-old Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

About 6.78 million Israeli citizens were eligible to elect their 25th Knesset. Some 210,720 new voters were able to vote for the first time, accounting for about four to five seats, adding an interesting dimension to the polls.

The prospect of the next government seems to be largely hinged on two factors – the level of right-wing polarisation, not necessarily in favour of veteran politician Netanyahu but for him to lead the coalition, and the extent of voter apathy, surprisingly, in the Arab sector.

Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister and among one of the most polarising ones whose leadership plagued by charges of graft has been at the centre of current instability, is facing a battle of political survival.

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