Jerusalem: Israeli lawmakers today failed to elect a new president to replace Nobel laureate Shimon Peres, forcing a second round of ballot between two front-runners -- Reuven Rivlin and Meir Sheetrit.
Five candidates were running for the president. The first round of voting eliminated former Supreme Court Judge Dalia Dorner, former Communications Minister and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dan Shechtman.
The results of the second round are expected to be announced later today by Speaker Yuli Edelstein and the next President will be sworn-in on July 24.
The winning candidate has to secure at least 61 votes in the 120-member Knesset (Israeli parliament).
Rivlin, a former parliamentary speaker who was reluctantly endorsed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his Likud party, garnered 44 of the 119 votes cast in the first round.
Sheetrit, an ex-finance minister who was not expected by political analysts to reach the second round after accusations of acquiring disproportionate assets started flying against him, received 31 votes.
The candidates eliminated in the first round of voting were former Supreme Court Judge, Dalia Dorner, former Communications Minister and Knesset Speaker, Dalia Itzik, and Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Dan Shechtman.
Political analysts believe that the secrecy of the vote, combined with the decision by some of the parties to let their lawmakers choose the candidate on their own, made the results of the first round interesting with much expected Itzik failing to enter the second round after obtaining only 28 votes.
The current president, 90-year-old Peres, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, assumed the office in 2007, after predecessor Moshe Katsav resigned to fight rape charges for which he was eventually convicted and jailed.
The run up to the elections saw major aspirants face charges ranging from sexual misconduct to financial misappropriation leading to many analysts dubbing the elections "dirtiest" in Israel`s history.