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Israel Presidential Race Goes to Second Round of Voting

Lawmakers Reuven Rivlin and Meir Sheetrit will compete to be elected president of Israel in a second round of parliamentary voting today, after none of the candidates won a majority in the first round.

Rivlin, a former parliamentary speaker endorsed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, garnered 44 of the 119 votes cast in a secret ballot. Sheetrit, an ex-finance minister who wasn’t expected by political analysts to reach the second round, received 31 votes.

The candidates eliminated in the first round of voting were former Supreme Court Judge Dalia Dorner, former Communications Minister and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dan Shechtman.

Israel’s president serves for seven years as the official head of state. Along with protocol duties, the president has the power to grant pardons and selects a party leader to form a new government after elections.

Avraham Diskin, a political science professor emeritus at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the secrecy of the vote may have enabled Sheetrit’s surprise success in the first round.

“No one really expected that,” said Diskin. “Most people believed that Dalia Itzik will be in the second round. People committed themselves to vote for other people, like Dalia Itzik, and didn’t obey to whoever instructed them to do so.”

The current president, Shimon Peres, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, assumed the office in 2007, after predecessor Moshe Katsav resigned to fight rape charges for which he was eventually convicted and jailed. His term ends July 27.

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