Israel President opens talks over appointing next PM

 Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday began consultations with representatives of parties elected to parliament last week to hear who they would recommend as prime minister.

AFP| Updated: Mar 22, 2015, 14:05 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday began consultations with representatives of parties elected to parliament last week to hear who they would recommend as prime minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s rightwing Likud party scored an unexpected election victory on March 17, taking 30 of the parliament`s 120 seats, compared with 24 for its closest challenger, the centre-left Zionist Union.

In Israel, it is not necessarily the leader of the largest party who forms the next government and becomes the premier, but the one who can form a working coalition, preferably with a majority of at least 61 -- in this case, Netanyahu.

Although the election results were out on Thursday, the official numbers will only be published on March 25, when the Central Elections Committee will hand them to Rivlin who will then have to announce who he is chosing to form the next government.

Rivlin was to meet first with Likud representatives, followed by those of the Zionist Union headed by Isaac Herzog, who has ruled out joining a government of national unity and said he will take the list into opposition.

He will then meet with representatives of the Joint List which groups the main Arab parties and came third in the vote, winning 13 seats, spokesman Jason Pearlman said.

Technically, Rivlin has seven days after receiving the results to make his decision, but Pearlman said he wanted to start the consultations "as soon as possible" in order to ensure a new government is quickly in place.

"He cannot name a candidate to form the next government before Wednesday," he explained.

Netanyahu wants to put together a narrow coalition of rightwing and religious parties which would have a 67-seat majority.

The coalition would include Likud (30), the far-right Jewish Home (8), the hardline anti-Arab Yisrael Beitenu (6), the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas (7) and United Torah Judaism (6), and the newly formed centre-right Kulanu party of Likud defector Moshe Kahlon (10).