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Rivlin to wait for final election results before meeting party heads

With outcome expected to be close, president won’t try to speed up process unlike after previous votes and may wait longer than usual due to pandemic voting restrictions, Passover

Members of the Blue and White party meet with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on September 22, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Members of the Blue and White party meet with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on September 22, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Unlike after the previous Knesset elections, President Reuven Rivlin will wait some eight days until the final vote results are in before starting consultations with party leaders on whom they recommend to form the next government and become prime minister, since the results are expected to be very close.

Tuesday’s vote, Israel’s fourth in under two years, features at least four parties hovering dangerously close to the electoral threshold in opinion polls, with some surveys predicting a deadlock and others forecasting a possible path to a coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After the elections, the head of each party that makes it into the 120-member Knesset is invited by the president to recommend their preferred choice of prime minister. The president then makes a selection, based on these recommendations, of who is best-placed to form and lead a governing coalition, normally a candidate recommended by at least 61 lawmakers.

The official results normally take eight days to be published, but this time, the Passover festival and the increased number of absentee ballots due to the pandemic could delay the process.

In the previous three rounds, Rivlin held the marathon discussions at the beginning of the week following the vote, before receiving the official results, in an effort to speed up the process. A short while after getting the official results, he tasked a candidate with forming a coalition.

But this time, Rivlin will wait for the official final results before any meetings with party leaders, the director-general of President’s Residence, Harel Tubi, said on Sunday.

Israelis count the remaining ballots at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, a day after the general elections, early on March 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“Unlike in the past, President Rivlin won’t hold consultations before the final results are filed, to ensure that they are clear and unequivocal,” Tubi told Army Radio, confirming an earlier report by the Makor Rishon newspaper.

Tubi estimated that it will take about two weeks after the elections until a candidate is tasked with forming the coalition.

Central Elections Committee (CEC) director Orly Adas said last week that her committee was still devising a plan for how to count the ballots and verify the results, with the number of absentee ballots expected to be double the normal amount.

The week-long Passover festival also poses a challenge, starting three days after the election. Adas said the goal is to complete an initial tally within two days.

The election is Israel’s fourth in under two years, amid an unprecedented political crisis that failed to produce a government after the first two votes in 2019 and yielded a short-lived unity government after the third. The vote is largely regarded as a referendum on Netanyahu’s leadership, including his handling of the coronavirus crisis and his trial on corruption charges.

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