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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party appear to have won a big victory in Tuesday's elections, with official results posted by Israeli news outlets showing Likud will take 29 seats with almost all of the vote counted.
The news organization Ynet said the center-left Zionist Union had 24 seats with 99 percent of the ballot boxes counted Wednesday morning local time. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier declared victory in Tuesday's hotly-contested national elections.
Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud Party, made the announcement on Twitter. "Against all odds: a great victory for the Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel!" he wrote in Hebrew.
Exit polls had showed Likud in a dead heat with the center-left Zionist Union. But the results indicated that Netanyahu will have an easier time forming a government with support from hard-line and religious allies, according to The Associated Press.
Netanyahu said he had already begun to call potential partners, the AP said.
Two exit polls earlier showed Likud and Zionist Union with 27 seats each in the 120-member Knesset, while a third poll gave Likud a 28-27 lead.
That leaves leaders of smaller parties with the power to influence who becomes the next prime minister. In such situations, the smaller party leaders do deals to throw support behind one of the top candidates. A leader needs 61 parliamentary seats to form a government.
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— Jon Schuppe, with The Associated Press