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Polls Close in Israeli Election

  • VOA News

Polls have closed in Israel for parliamentary elections seen as a referendum on acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to withdraw from parts of the West Bank.

Initial exit polls suggest Mr. Olmert's Kadima Party won the most seats, as expected. But the polls do not give the party an absolute majority.

Mr. Olmert says that if his party leads Israel's next coalition government, he plans to dismantle small Jewish settlements and merge large blocs into Israel. He says he will not leave any settlements outside Israel's controversial West Bank separation barrier.

Tuesday's vote was held under extremely tight security. Voter turnout was lower than in previous elections throughout the day.

As voting got under way, an explosion killed two Israeli Bedouin Arabs near the Gaza border. The Islamic Jihad militant group says it fired rockets at the area to disrupt the Israeli election.

Opinion surveys indicate the centrist Kadima is likely to win between 33 and 35 seats in the 120-member parliament, followed by the Labor party's 17 to 21 seats. The Likud party is projected to win between 13 to 15 seats.
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