Israeli elections to choose a new president begin at 11 am local time, with Knesset members already preparing for the vote that will place the country’s next ceremonial representative in Jerusalem’s presidential residence for the next seven years.
After what has been termed the “ugliest” contest in recent decades, the race is nearly over, to everyone’s relief.
Largely expected to take the lion’s share of the votes is sole Likud candidate and former Knesset Speaker, MK Reuven Rivlin.
His main competitor is Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, most analysts believe, who will receive extra support due to the last-minute pullout of MK Binyamin ‘Fuad’ Ben-Eliezer (Labor). The former defense minister left the race on Saturday following allegations of financial misconduct.
Other candidates include MK Meir Sheetrit (the only candidate who refused to reveal his financial information), Professor Dan Shechtmann,and former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, another possible favorite and one allegedly backed by lawmakers from the Yisrael Beyteynu party.
The latter support is ironic, given that Yisrael Beyteynu is a partner in a merger with the Likud. However, Yisrael Beyteynu chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has come out against Rivlin, who is backed by Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Just yesterday (Monday), Liberman took a public swipe at Netanyahu over his handling of internal squabbles between coalition members.
Do I hear the echoes of a future campaign for the prime minister’s seat building in the wings by an ambitious foreign minister?
The first round of voting is to be carried out in the Knesset by secret ballot, and if one candidate receives an absolute majority of 61 mandates, the next president will have been chosen.
If no majority is reached, the two top candidates go on to a run-off election, and the process is repeated.