Netanyahu’s Likud gains one more Knesset seat

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party has gained one seat in the Knesset, giving it 32 seats. The new seat was announced midnight by Israel’s Central Election Committee, following an investigation.

The seat gained was at the expense of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism.

According to Times of Israel, the additional seat does not change the balance of power with Likud and UTJ in the same bloc still one behind Blue and White. It drops UTJ from eight to seven.

In the late night announcement the committee said the change came following a thorough check of thousands of polling stations in which several discrepancies had been found.

Some 70 lawyers and committee officials have been siting in various Knesset rooms picking through piles of blue envelopes containing voter slips, in an attempt to ensure the integrity of the ballot and identify any irregularities that might have been missed.

The committee has until the end of Wednesday to give President Reuven Rivlin the final results.

The latest results gave Blue and White 33 seats to Likud’s 32. Third was the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties at 13, followed by the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas with nine and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu with eight seats.

Rounding out the list were United Torah Judaism and Yamina with seven seats, Labor-Gesher with six and the Democratic Camp with five.

The centre-left bloc, including the predominantly Arab Joint List — which has never been a member of the government — has increased its power to 57 seats, with the right-wing and religious bloc at 55. Neither has the 61-seat majority necessary to form a coalition, leaving Yisrael Beytenu in the kingmaker position.

Rivlin has encouraged Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to reach a unity government and they have begun talks.

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