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Final Israeli election results show divided voters

By Mark Morgenstein, CNN
January 25, 2013 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israel's election results are final, but not yet official
  • Experts say the new Knesset will be equally divided between left- and right-wing politicians
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu's center-right party lost clout; a centrist coalition may result

(CNN) -- The final election results are in for the 19th Knesset in Israel, and the only thing that's clear is Israeli voters are pretty evenly divided across the political spectrum.

The newspaper Haaretz and the independent U.S.-based Israel Project each projected the seats won based on the vote totals, and they agreed that right wing and center-right parties are likely to end up with 61 of the legislative seats, while left wing and center-left parties, including Arab parties, will probably garner 59 seats.

While the totals are "final," now that votes from soldiers, diplomats, prisoners and others have been tallied, they won't be "official" until January 30.

The results came as a surprise to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud-Beitenu party. Netanyahu's supporters had 42 seats in the outgoing Knesset, but he is projected to retain only 31 in the new legislature.

The prime minister indicated Wednesday that he might try to attract centrists into a government coalition rather than form a hard-right bloc in Israel's politically diverse parliament.

He announced a focus on three issues dear to the upstart center-left Yesh Atid party, which is projected to capture 19 Knesset seats: increasing equality in the burden on the public, seen as a reference to the practice, unpopular among secularists, of giving military exemptions to the ultra-Orthodox; the grinding issue of affordable housing; and changing what many see as Israel's "ineffective" system of government.

CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report

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