In Israel, the President appoints the Prime Minister

I was reading a profile about Israel’s President and I came across something that surprised me. From an excellent CS Monitor article about the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin:

“…Rivlin also will have an important political role to play following Israel’s March 17 elections, in which Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud and the opposition Labor are running neck and neck. As president, Rivlin picks the party leader he deems most likely to succeed in forming the next government, not necessarily the leader of the largest party, and he has said he will pick the person who can form the largest coalition.”

How about that? So a briefer on Israeli elections. First off, votes are cast for a party and not for individuals. I’ll let these guys pick up from here:

“Prior to the elections, each party presents its platform, and the list of candidates for the Knesset, in order of precedence. The parties select their candidates for the Knesset in primaries or by other procedures. Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote.”

Then the President comes along and picks somebody.

“When a new government is to be constituted, the President of the State, after consulting with representatives of the parties elected to the Knesset, assigns the task of forming the government to a Knesset member. This Knesset member is usually the leader of the party with the largest Knesset representation or the head of the party that leads a coalition with more than 60 members.”

Note that the President isn’t obligated to pick the biggest party/coalition, it’s just usually that. Israel used to have direct election for Prime Minister, but that was abolished in 1996. One last tidbit from Wikipedia: “Presidents are elected by the Knesset for a seven-year term and are limited to a single term.”

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