The polls have closed a few minutes ago, and now the votes are being counted up and taken to the central election committee to be registered. The count will only be in by morning, and after that it will take 2-3 days to count the soldiers’ ballots and votes of people who voted overseas.
In the meantime, we have the exit polls, taken by channels 1, 2 and 10, which give a partial result.
First of all, more people voted this time than last election. The final figure is not in yet, but it is above 65%, which is relatively high.
These are the results according to the three exit polls:
Likud (Netanyahu)- 27 or 28
Labor (Hertzog and Livni)- 27
Joint Arab party (Ayman Oda)- 12 or 13
Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid)- 11 or 12
Kulanu (Moshe Kahlon)- 9 or 10
Jewish Home (Naftali Bennet) 8 or 9
Shas (Arye Derri)- 7
United Torah Judaism (Yaakov Litzman)- 6 or 7
Yisrael Beiteinu (Lieberman)- 5
Meretz (Zehava Gal’on)- 5
Yachad (Eli Yishay)- 0
It’s important to stress that these are only exit polls. They do not represent all the voters, and there have been surprises in the past.
So who won the election? It may be weeks before we know for sure.
What happens next, after the final results are in, is that each party leader meets with the President and recommends a candidate to form the coalition. That candidate (which would either be Netanyahu or Hertzog, being the leaders of the two largest parties) will then have 28 days in which to negotiate with the other party leaders in order to form the coalition. They need a majority of at least 61 Knesset members to support them. They will negotiate over the main policy lines of the future government and about the ministerial positions that will be handed out to the high ranking members of each party.
If Netanyahu forms the coalition, it would most likely include Jewish Home, Yisrael Beiteinu, both Ultra Orthodox parties- Shas and United Torah Judaism, and finally Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu. Such a coalition would have approximately 63 seats, according to the exit polls.
If Hertzog forms the coalition, it would most likely include Meretz, Yesh Atid, both Ultra Orthodox parties and- Kulanu. Such a coalition would have approximately 67 seats.
The bottom line is that either way, the two Ultra Orthodox parties and Kulanu will be a part of the new coalition. The Ultra Orthodox parties naturally lean in the direction of Netanyahu, and the big question is which way will Kulanu lean? Moshe Kahlon is a former member of Netanyahu’s Likud, but he has been very careful throughout the campain to keep his mouth shut about who he prefers as Prime Minister. Moshe Kahlon is the Kingmaker.
If one candidate is unable to form a coalition within the allotted 28 days, he may get another 14. After that, the task falls to the second candidate. If neither are able to form a coalition, we may find ourselves with a second election, to brake the stalemate.
I will post updates in the comments, as the results come in.