Peres ready to announce early Israeli elections
Israeli President Shimon Peres completed consultations with parliamentary factions Monday, preparing the ground for early elections in the politically turbulent country before March, reported dpa.
A day after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni informed him that she was unable to form a government, Peres was expected to announce to Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik Monday afternoon that his consultations had left him with no option but to call for new elections.
Once he makes his announcement, a majority of lawmakers will have 21 days to present another candidate and if - as is likely - this does not happen, new elections will be held within 90 days or around February 10.
In a bid to speed up the process and skip the 21-day waiting period, Livni's ruling Kadima party meanwhile separately submitted a bill Monday to dissolve the parliament and hold the elections sooner.
Kadima caucus leader Yoel Hasson submitted the Knesset dispersal bill to the parliament's secretariat. A vote on it had yet to be scheduled. The Knesset was holding its first session Monday after its summer recess.
Under Israeli law, the Knesset can be dissolved either by a bill, or by an announcement by the president to the parliament's speaker that his nominee was unable to form a government. Either way, the elections are expected by March. A year ahead of schedule, they will be the sixth general elections in just 13 years in Israel, where the proportional representation system and the large number of political factions has often led to political instability.
Livni was tasked on September 22 by Peres with forming a new government to replace that of Ehud Olmert, who has resigned to fight corruption allegations.
The 50-year-old foreign minister, who was chosen to replace Olmert as the head of Kadima in September 17 primaries, decided to recommend early elections after the ultra-Orthodox Shas party decided against joining her government.
Peres began marathon consultations with all Knesset factions Sunday evening. Granting up to 20 minutes to each, he completed meeting all 13 of them by noon, with all of them recommending new elections a soon as possible and indicating no wish to have another lawmaker make another attempt at forming a government.
Peres was scheduled to address the opening of the Knesset winter session later Monday.
The hardline Likud party was the first to reject Livni's offer to join a government of national unity. Without it, and without the 12-seat Shas party and another ultra-Orthodox party, she was unable to get a majority in the Knesset. Crushed by Kadima in the March 1996 elections, the Likud of former hawkish premier Benjamin Netanyahu hopes that polls of the two years which forecast him doing well will be borne out.
Two opinion polls published Monday however predicted a narrow win by Kadima over the Likud, giving the centrist party 29-31 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, compared to 26-29 for the Likud.
The Labour Party, headed by another former prime minister, Ehud Barak, would win only 11 seats, according to both polls, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, whose refusal to join a Livni-led coalition precipitated the current political impasse, would win 8 seats, losing one third of its strength.
The polls were published the leading Ma'ariv and Yediot Ahronot dailies. Kadima's two-mandate lead over the Likud in the Ma'ariv poll, however, fell within its 4.5-per-cent margin of error.