BEIRUT

Middle East

Israel to choose new head of state on June 10

Israel's President Shimon Peres answers questions during a joint news conference with Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg (not pictured) in Oslo, May 13, 2014. REUTERS/Hakon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli lawmakers will elect a successor to outgoing President Shimon Peres on June 10, parliamentary speaker Yuli Edelstein told reporters on Monday.

Edelstein's announcement marks the official start of the race for the position, which has been held by Peres since 2007.

Candidates must receive the backing of at least 10 other MPs, and formally present their requests in writing to the speaker on May 27, Edelstein said.

In Israel, the post of president is largely ceremonial and executive power rests with the prime minister.

Peres will step down at the end of July, just before his 91st birthday, following a political career spanning nearly seven decades.

Edelstein's announcement comes after months of vigorous unofficial lobbying by would-be candidates, among them Energy Minister Silvan Shalom who in March was questioned by police over allegations of sexual assault dating back 15 years.

Earlier this month, the attorney general called off the inquiry, citing the statute of limitations.

Shalom, a member of the ruling rightwing Likud party, has yet to announce whether he will still run for the post.

Another presidential hopeful is veteran Labour parliamentarian Benjamin Ben Eliezer, who has held several ministerial portfolios and has already accrued the required support from fellow MPs.

Following months of infighting and mudslinging over the prospective candidates, Edelstein called for a clean campaign - "one which respects the presidency, respects the Knesset, and that will enable all of us after the election to respect the man or woman chosen."

Former president Moshe Katsav began a seven-year jail sentence in December 2011 after being convicted on two counts of rape and other sexual offences.

 

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