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Far-right member of Israel's ruling party elected as 10th president: Speaker

Published on Jun 10, 2014 8:41 PM
 
Mr Reuven Rivlin, a far-right member of Israel's ruling Likud, was on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, elected by Parliament to be the nation's 10th president when President Shimon Peres steps down in July, the speaker said. -- PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Mr Reuven Rivlin, a far-right member of Israel's ruling Likud, was on Tuesday elected by Parliament to be the nation's 10th president when President Shimon Peres steps down in July, the speaker said.

Announcing the results of a run-off vote, parliamentary Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Mr Rivlin had defeated his centrist challenger Meir Sheetrit by 63 votes to 53 in a secret ballot of the Knesset's 120 MPs.

Known for his affable character and quirky sense of humour, Mr Rivlin, who served twice as parliamentary speaker, is firmly against the establishment of a Palestinian state and is a strong backer of Israel’s sprawling settlement enterprise.

A lawyer by profession, the 74-year-old is also known for his determined defence of democracy and civil rights which earned him the respect of the left and even members of Israel’s Arab minority.

But he will have a tough act to follow in Mr Peres, whose charisma and popularity enabled him to transcend the largely ceremonial position of the presidency and use it to promote a political message of peace.

Commentators say that Mr Peres’ departure from office at the end of July is likely to switch the presidency’s focus from international affairs to more domestic matters.

In the first round, MPs voted for five candidates who also included Ms Dalia Itzik, the first female speaker of the Knesset; retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner; and chemistry Nobel Laureate Dan Shechtman.

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