Israeli President Shimon Peres attends a session of the World Economic Forum at Davos on January 24, 2013
Israeli President Shimon Peres attends a session of the World Economic Forum at the Swiss resort of Davos on January 24, 2013. Peres has formally begun a period of consultation with the parliamentary factions to select the MP most able to put together the country's next ruling coalition. © Johannes Eisele - AFP/File
Israeli President Shimon Peres attends a session of the World Economic Forum at Davos on January 24, 2013
AFP
Last updated: January 30, 2013

Israel's Peres formally starts coalition-building process

Israeli President Shimon Peres on Wednesday began meeting party representatives as part of a formal post-election process that should see Prime Minister Benjamiun Netanyahu asked to form a new government coalition.

The incumbent is expected to enjoy the support of two-thirds of the Knesset's 120 members and has so far not been challenged by another MP for the top job, but Peres will only announce his decision after another day of consultations.

"The responsibility the law places on me is very heavy, and I intend to uphold it while adhering to the law... to enable the formation of a government that will reflect the people's desire, as soon as possible," he said upon receiving the official election results at his Jerusalem residence.

Informal talks to form a viable governing coalition have been under way since the January 22 election, which saw 12 political parties elected to serve in the country's 19th Knesset.

But the process can only begin in earnest after Peres wraps up talks with the parliamentary factions and announces his choice of a prime minister.

He began with representatives of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud-Beitenu list, which won 31 of the Knesset's 120 seats.

The veteran statesman then met the new centrist Yesh Atid headed by former TV anchorman Yair Lapid, whose young movement notched a shock 19 seats, becoming the second largest party in parliament.

"Yesh Atid's programme says that the head of the party with the most votes should head the government. Benjamin Netanyahu heads the largest party, hence Yesh Atid recommends that he form the next government," Lapid told reporters.

On Thursday, Peres will consult with the remaining 10 parties to see who they recommend in a process due to end in the late afternoon.

An announcement will be made some time before the start of the Jewish sabbath at sundown on Friday.

The nominee then has 28 days to put together a coalition.

Although the person who gets first shot at forming a coalition of at least 61 MPs is generally the leader of the party with the most seats, the president could theoretically pick an MP seen as more likely to secure a consensus.

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