President Reuven Rivlin vowed Tuesday to do everything in his power to stop a third round of elections in Israel, as the polls opened for the second national elections in six months.
As president, Rivlin decides who to task with forming a coalition government once polls close and the results come in. The leader whose party wins the most votes is traditionally the first person to be tapped for this job, and if after the period allocated for this mission they are unable to do so, the president is expected to turn to another leader.
However, faced with the prospect of another party forming a government when he was unable to cobble together a coalition after April's ballot, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party pushed through legislation to dissolve parliament and head for another national vote just weeks after the Knesset was sworn in.
Rivlin made the comments in a video in Hebrew posted on his Facebook page just hours before the polls opened at 7am.
The video was produced as a public service announcement following a deluge of public inquiries was sent to Rivlin asking him to stop the second round of elections, after Netanyahu's failed attempt to form a coalition, and could be viewed as a veiled rebuke to the prime minister for calling another election.
"On September 25, the final election results will be presented by the CEO of the Central Elections Committee, Orly Ades," says Rivlin in the video.
"By law, I need to consult with Knesset faction representatives, which you can view live as it happens, and ask them which Knesset member they think I should give the mandate to form a government," he says.
"At in the end of the meetings, I will have a maximum of seven days to choose which Knesset member will receive the honor of trying to form a government.
After I make my decision, the selected Knesset member will have 28 days to build a coalition. If they ask for more time, I will have to consider it depending on the circumstances," Rivlin said.
"By law I am authorized to grant an extension of 14 days or less."
The president also said that if the appointed Knesset member cannot form a government, or if the Knesset passes a motion of no confidence in the newly formed coalition, he would have one of two options at his disposal.
His first option would be to tap another Knesset member, excluding the one who has already failed, to try to form a government.
The second option would be to inform the Knesset Speaker (Yuli Edelstein in this case) that there is no other choice but hold another round of elections.
A third option is possible, in which 61 Knesset members ask the president to give the mandate to a specific Knesset member. But this particular scenario never materialized after the last elections, as Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset so his main rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz would not be given the mandate by Rivlin.
In his video, Rivlin also called for all Israeli citizens to go out to vote, despite what he said was an understandable feeling of frustration with the political situation.
"We need to remember, in the democratic game, the only influence is through the ballot box," he said.