Vice Premier Shimon Peres will run for president no matter what, associates said Wednesday. He intends to submit his candidacy even if the race will be decided by secret ballot, they said.
Sentiments in the Knesset seem to support Peres' bid for the presidency. A senior Labor party member told Ynet, "Peres has a chance to win regardless of the type of vote, because of the current atmosphere created (by the charges against President Moshe Katsav)."
Senior members of Kadima confirmed that the Prime Minister's Office held an internal meeting on the issue Tuesday night and decided to "throw all their weight behind Peres and do everything to help him win."
Many Knesset members believe that Peres is the right man to restore the image of the presidency.
Peres originally announced an intention to run in a potential presidential race two weeks ago. These plans have apparently solidified due the recent wave of public support for him, following Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's decision to indict Katsav.
Peres said Wednesday that, in the event of Katsav's resignation, presidential elections should be held immediately. When asked about his bid for the position, he answered "we need to ask what's good for the nation in the reality that has been created."
Peres has not yet formally announced his bid, but his cronies in Labor are soon expected to try and persuade Labor candidate Colette Avital to withdraw her candidacy. This would allow the Labor party to throw their support behind Peres also.
Despite the apparent support, victory is not assured. Some Peres associates are worried that the long time period until elections will decrease the VP's comparative advantage in the race.
It should be recalled that Peres was also considered the favorite going into the 2000 election, which he then lost to Katsav.
Peres said Wednesday that, during the campaign in 2000, he refrained from using information he possessed against Katsav, but added that he "does not regret it".
Peres seems determined to participate in the process again in 2006 and was quoted as saying "even if I lose, it's not my loss, but rather, everyone's."