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Sharon's Likud Party Dominates Israeli Election - 2003-01-29

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won a decisive victory for his rightwing Likud party in Tuesday's elections. With nearly all the votes counted, the party is expected to win 37 seats in the 120-member legislature. The prime minister must now build a coalition.

Mr. Sharon has called for a broad unity government and has made it clear that even though his party trounced the opposition Labor Party, he would still like Labor in a coalition.

With only 19 seats in the Knesset, Labor remains the number two party, but its leader, Amram Mitzna, has ruled out joining a Likud-led government.

The secular Shinui party, which came in third with 15 seats, says it would like to join Likud, but only if no ultra-orthodox religious parties are part of the coalition.

Mr. Sharon could also form a government with religious and ultra nationalist parties, but analysts warn that could cause trouble with Israel's main ally, Washington. The Bush administration is hoping to restart some sort of Palestinian peace process, which many of the ultra right-wing parties vehemently oppose.