Netanyahu and far-right allies scent Israel election victory

AP - Tsafrir Abayov

Veteran Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to have all but regained power on Wednesday, with initial election results showing his alliance with the extreme right taking a narrow lead.

With around 84 percent of the vote counted, according to the Central Elections Committee, Netanyahu could be set for a dramatic comeback.

Addressing supporters who chanted: "King of Israel", Netanyahu said his Likud party had received a huge vote of confidence.

As Israel's longest-serving leader seeks to make a comeback, initial results put his right-wing bloc ahead in the race to form a government, following the country's fifth election in four years.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid – the architect of the coalition which ousted Netanyahu last year – cautioned that nothing had been decided.

"(We) will wait patiently ... for the final results," Lapid told crowds backing his centrist Yesh Atid party.

While Israelis are split broadly between those who support or oppose Netanyahu, the former premier has been buoyed by votes for his extreme-right allies.

The Religious Zionism bloc of Itamar Ben-Gvir has made significant gains and is expected to emerge as the third-largest party, behind Yesh Atid.

The controversial Ben-Gvir heralded the party's showing as a "great achievement", which is expected to hand the right-wing a majority in the 120-seat parliament.

The margins remain narrow, however, and previous elections have shown that slight adjustments during the count can make or break a government.

(With AFP)

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