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Netanyahu declares victory in primary election

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People look at a poster of Israel's Prime minister and governing Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
People look at a poster of Israel's Prime minister and governing Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu.   -  
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AP Photo/Ariel Schalit - Ariel Schalit
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared victory in his primary election battle for leadership of the Likud party.

`"A huge win,'' Netanyahu tweeted, just over an hour after polls closed. Official results are expected later on Friday.

A huge win! Thank you to friends and Likud members for their trust, support and love. With God and with your help, I will lead the Likud to a big victory in the upcoming elections and continue to lead the State of Israel to unprecedented achievements.

Polling stations closed at 11 pm local time on Thursday. Just under fifty percent of 116,000 eligible voters cast ballots, with many apparently deterred by the weather.

Israeli media report that exit polls showed a 71 percent majority in support of Netanyahu.

Israeli media predicted a Netanyahu landslide. Channel 12, a major television station, said initial results showed a ``significant gap`` between the candidates.

His main challenger, Gideon Saar had hoped to unseat Netanyahu claiming that he would be in a better position to form a government in national elections in March.

Netanyahu had failed to do so twice already. Yet he remains popular among Likud members despite by corruption charges against him.

A victory would mean that Netanyahu would lead Likud in the March election. Yet his political future will remain in doubt. The Supreme Court is set next week to begin considering the question of whether an indicted member of parliament can be tasked with forming a new government. It's not clear when a ruling would be handed down.

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