Israeli President Shimon Perez has asked Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to form a new coalition government following her narrow win in the centre-right Kadima party primaries. On Monday, Livni urged the right-wing Likud Party to join her coalition.
President Shimon Peres asked Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday to form a new government, opening the way for the new Kadima party leader to become the second woman prime minister in Israel's history.
Livni will have up to 42 days to put together a coalition. Scandal-hit Ehud Olmert, who resigned as prime minister on Sunday, will remain in office until the next government is in place, either through political negotiations or an election.
"I bestow upon you the task of forming a new government," Peres told Livni before television cameras at the president's official residence.
Earlier, Peres sounded out parliamentary faction leaders on their preferences for prime minister or whether they wanted an early election ahead of a national ballot due in 2010.
The political uncertainty has dimmed even further prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, which the United States had hoped Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could achieve this year.
Olmert, who could face criminal indictment in corruption probes, was replaced as Kadima chairman by Livni in an internal election on Wednesday in which she narrowly defeated her main challenger, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz.
If Livni forms a coalition, she will become Israel's first woman prime minister since Golda Meir in the 1970s. Failure to announce a new government within 42 days would almost certainly trigger a parliamentary election early next year.
Israel's next election is not due before 2010. Opinion polls predict that right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party would win an early national vote.
Date created : 2008-09-22