JERUSALEM – The centrist Kadima party, headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni,
was leading in three exit polls late Tuesday night following national elections in Israel, offsetting months of expectations that the lion's share of votes would be won by right-wing Likud leader,
Ms. Livni's Kadima was predicted to have won between 29 and 30 seats in the 120-seat parliament, compared with 27 to 28 for Netanyahu's Likud party.
If the polls turn out to be accurate on Wednesday, when the official results are expected to be announced, Livni will be invited by Israel's president to form a coalition government. That could make Livni the first female prime minister Israel has had since the 1970s, when Golda Meir led the country.
But even if the projected results are confirmed, Livni faces an uphill battle in trying to form a coalition, especially one that could be expected to pursue a peacemaking agenda with the
Palestinians and with Israel's Arab neighbors. Doing quick coalition math, analysts saw that there was not a sufficient number of centrist and left-wing parties to form a government. To build a
coalition, she would either need to bring in the rival Likud party, or the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitainu (Israel is Our Home), led by Avigdor Lieberman, which has now become Israel's third-largest party with approximately 15 seats.