Runners and Riders: Netanyahu, Saar, Deri, Bennett, Lieberman
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LIVE BLOG – Exit polls predict dead heat after Israel’s 2021 election

No leader has a clear route to a majority in the Knesset at the end of voting in the fourth election in two years

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Runners and Riders: Netanyahu, Saar, Deri, Bennett, Lieberman

Likud

Leader: Benjamin Netanyahu

Polling prediction: 29 seats

The modern mainstay of Israeli politics, Likud is almost certain to top the polls again. It would be the sixth successive election in which it won more seats than any other party. Together with the strictly-Orthodox parties and perhaps a small number of far-right MKs, it will most likely lead the largest bloc in the next Knesset. But that does not automatically mean victory: it will be Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to divide his opponents, rather than marshal his supporters, that will determine whether he remains prime minister. His many years in power have shown he can create opportunities out of any situation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

New Hope

Leader: Gideon Saar

Polling prediction: 9 seats

Gideon Saar

A new entrant on Israel’s political scene, this party by disgruntled former Likud star Gideon Saar and his associates was founded barely three months ago. As with Yamina’s Naftali Bennett, Saar has hopes of being a unifying force for the Israeli centre-right after – or if – Netanyahu’s reign comes to an end. Several other big Likud names defected along with Saar, who has ruled out a post-election deal with Netanyahu. But he wouldn’t be the first Israeli politician to go back on his word.

Shas

Leader: Arye Deri

Polling prediction: 6 seats

Shas is the Sephardic one of Israel’s two strictly-Orthdox parties and a longstanding partner of Benjamin Netanyahu. Although it has sat in government under Labour in the past, it’s a sure bet to back Likud this time.

Yamina

Leader: Naftali Bennett

Polling prediction: 11 seats

Naftali Bennett

Bennett’s Yamina is largely run as a co-leadership with Ayelet Shaked: the two have between them have held some of the biggest ministries in the cabinet, including education, justice and defence. In terms of ambition, though, Bennett stomps on similar ground to Gideon Saar’s New Hope. Both parties are angling to lead the Israeli centre-right after Netanyahu. But Yamina is much less moderate and has flirted with more extremist end of conservative Israeli politics in recent years. Few believe Bennett’s claims that he won’t sit in a Netanyahu government either.

Yisrael Beiteinu

Leader: Avigdor Lieberman

Polling prediction: 7 seats

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Israeli secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, gives an address at the party’s electoral headquarters in Jerusalem late on September 17, 2019. – . Photo by: JINIPIX

Another right-wing movement led by another former Netanyahu ally, Yisrael Beiteinu largely courts immigrants from the former Soviet Union. But Avigdor Lieberman was pivotal in preventing an automatic victory for the Israeli prime minister after the two elections of 2019 and hasn’t shifted tack ahead of this election either. His longstanding vow not to sit in government with the strictly-Orthodox parties complicates the post-election arithmetic.