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Israel parliament to choose new president on June 10

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

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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 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 MPs.

Also on Monday, former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin of Likud formally announced his candidacy. He also ran in the 2007 race, losing to Peres.

Although Rivlin looks set to easily secure the support of at least 10 MPs, one signature he won't get is that of Netanyahu, who is reportedly dead set on preventing the ex-speaker from winning.

Netanyahu had even considered legislation to postpone the vote or cancel the institution of the presidency altogether, press reports said.

He is expected to offer "quiet support" to Shalom, if he runs, Haaretz newspaper reported on Monday.

Outside the political sphere, there are several prospective candidates including Nobel chemistry laureate Dan Shechtman and former supreme court justice Dalia Dorner, but commentators said they would struggle to win the necessary backing of 10 MPs.

Following months of infighting and mudslinging over the prospective candidates, Edelstein called for a clean campaign.

"Unfortunately, the race has till now been marked by delegitimization and smear campaigns," Edelstein said.

He implored candidates to clean up their act and campaign in a way that "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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