On Tuesday Israel held an unprecedented fourth election in less than two years amid a lingering political deadlock. The polls are also likely to decide the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is presently facing corruption charges. The elections were called barely seven months after the last government was formed after the Likud and Blue and White party failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline.
While the final results will be out only on March 31, exit polls on Israel's three main TV channels on Tuesday shows that a bloc of right wing parties were likely to win. Netanyahu's Likud party and three other right-wing parties that vowed ahead of the elections to join a coalition headed by the longtime leader, are being projected to win 53-54 seats together.
But it is unclear whether Netanyahu will be able to retain power in what many have dubbed a referendum on his continuance at the helm of affairs. The Prime Minister needs at least 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament to form a governing coalition.
As per reports, Netanyahu's most obvious path to power now depends on Naftali Bennett, a rival right-winger whose party won seven to eight seats. This would however make for a coalition government on narrow margins - something that critics say will make the PM beholden to their radical agenda for his political survival.
For Netanyahu however, the poll results go beyond retention of the Prime Ministerial post. As he faces a raft of corruption charges, retaining office would help him pursue immunity from prosecution. The PM on Tuesday, dubbed the exit poll results as a "huge win for the right".
"It is clear that the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Israel are right-wingers and they want a strong and stable right-wing government that will safeguard the economy of Israel, the security of Israel and the land of Israel," Netanyahu said.
(With inputs from agencies)