Netanyahu narrowly wins Israeli vote
The right-wing union led by incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gained a narrow lead in Tuesday's early parliamentary elections, while a newly-established center party came as the second largest party in the new legislature.
The joint Likud-Beytenu party was set to receive 31 seats in the 120-member unicameral Knesset (parliament), after 99 percent of the votes were counted as of Wednesday.
A big surprise from the vote, however, was the emergence of the centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, which received an expected 19 seats in the next parliament.
The party, launched in April 2012 by former TV anchor Yair Lapid, surpassed the center-left Labor party, which received only 17 seats.
After the exit polls, Netanyahu said he would work to create the "widest possible government" amid challenges faced by the Jewish state.
"The elections are behind us and the challenges are in front of us, including the Iranian nuclear threat, the economic crisis and the conflict with the Palestinians," he said at his party headquarters in Tel Aviv.
"We would like to join hands with as many political partners as possible to work and solve those challenges," Netanyahu added.
However, the prime minister's party suffered a major blow with the loss of an expected 20 percent of its electoral power. According to several news outlets, senior Likud members expressed grave disappointment over the results.
Meanwhile, Lapid said in a speech at his party headquarters that Israelis are obviously seeking unity.
"We feel the huge responsibility that has been put upon us tonight and we won't let our voters down once we're in the Knesset. We won't forget them," he said.
Lapid added that Israeli citizens "said no to politics of fear, hatred and divide" and are calling for unity within the country. Nepalnews.com/Xhinua