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Israeli election update

According to exit polls, Likud is estimated to have won 34 seats in Knesset in today’s election, with Labor in second place at 18 seats. Shinui is in third place with 16 seats.

More definitive results will probably take a few hours, as polls are closing any minute now and ballots need to be counted. But the Likud win is fairly predictable, and the key question may not be answered for days or even weeks: who will join Likud in a coalition government. Will Sharon be able to convince Mitzna to reverse his position and bring Labor into a unity government with Likud? Will he be forced to look to the religious parties or the far right for support? This is what will truly determine the character of the government and the policies on key issues.

Update: With over 90% of the vote counted, the tally is Likud with 37 seats, Labor with 19 seats, and Shinui with 15 seats. Other notable parties are the ultra-religious Shas party with 11 seats, and the leftist Meretz party with 7.

Shinui leader Tommy Lapid re-stated his desire to join a unity government with Sharon, but only if religious parties are excluded from such a coalition. Mitzna still hasn’t wavered on his promise not to join a Likud coalition, although predictions are that he may change his mind in the coming weeks.

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