A Likud party supporter holds a banner showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, January 21, 2013 in Jerusalem
A supporter of the Likud party holds a banner showing Israeli Prime Minister and party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, on January 21, 2013 at the Ben Yehuda Mall in Jerusalem. Israelis vote Tuesday in a general election expected to return Netanyahu to power at the head of a government of hardline right-wing and religious parties. © Brian Hendler - AFP
A Likud party supporter holds a banner showing Israeli Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu, January 21, 2013 in Jerusalem
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AFP
Last updated: January 22, 2013

Israelis vote in elections seen swinging to the right

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday it was necessary to form the "broadest possible government" after his Likud-Beitenu list won a narrow election victory, with the centrist Yesh Atid in second place.

"We need to form the broadest possible government," he said in a victory speech to around a 100 cheering supporters from his right-wing Likud, with exit pols showing its joint list with the hardline nationalist Yisrael Beitenu winning 31 seats in the 120-member parliament.

Earlier in the evening, Netanyahu implied that the first candidate to join a coalition he might head would be Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, which was projected to have won 18-19 seats.

In remarks published on Facebook, Netanyahu wrote he told Lapid that "We have an opportunity to do great things for Israel. The election campaign is behind us, and we can now focus on action for the benefit of all of Israel."

The new government will be faced with tackling two key issues: how to revive moribund peace talks with the Palestinians and how to tackle the question of Iran's contested nuclear programme, which Israel and much of the West believes is a guise for a weapons drive.

But domestic challenges will be no less pressing, with a major budget crisis and austerity cuts on the horizon, as Israelis express widespread discontent over spiralling prices.

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