Sun, 20 Jun 2021

JERUSALEM, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main rival, Yair Lapid, with the formation of a new coalition government, a day after Netanyahu failed to do so.

In a broadcast statement, Rivlin announced that following a series of consultation talks earlier in the day with leaders of other parties, he came to the conclusion that Lapid, leader of the centrist party of Yesh Atid, has "the highest chances" of forming a new government.

Lapid has the support of 56 lawmakers, Rivlin said. He now runs short of five lawmakers to form a majority coalition in Israel's 120-seat parliament.

During the consultation talks with Rivlin, Naftali Bennet, leader of a seven-seat nationalist party called Yamina, said he is not ruling out a coalition with Lapid.

Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Ra'am, the party of the Islamic movement in Israel which holds four seats in the parliament, said he "will cooperate in a positive way with anyone who will be tasked with forming the government."

Rivlin said he is hopeful that "a stable government" will be established to avoid a fifth round of elections in two years, following a series of inconclusive previous ones and a lingering political deadlock.

Lapid now has 28 days to put together a new governing coalition.

Rivlin entrusted the task first with Netanyahu, after he came out on top in the March elections. However, Netanyahu lost his mandate on Tuesday night after he failed to meet a midnight deadline to put together a government.

If Lapid will succeed in forming a government, Netanyahu and his Likud party could find themselves in the opposition for the first time in 12 years.

Facing a criminal trial of corruption charges in three separate cases, the longest-serving Israeli leader is struggling for his political survival.

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