JERUSALEM, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said on Tuesday that he has picked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to form a government.
Rivlin announced his decision in a televised statement following a recent election that ended with no clear winner.
The president noted that even though Netanyahu, the country's longest-serving leader now facing corruption charges, still runs short of the 61 seats needed to form a majority coalition in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, he holds the most support, 52 seats, and therefore has "a slightly higher chance of forming a government."
However, the president also admitted that "no candidate has a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset."
"I know the position held by many that the president should not give the role to a candidate that is facing criminal charges," Rivlin said. "But according to the law and the decision of the courts, a prime minister can continue in his role even when he is facing charges."
The decision means that Netanyahu now has 28 days to put together a coalition government, with a possibility of a two-week extension before Rivlin tasks another candidate or asks the Knesset to choose one.
Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009, is facing a criminal trial over corruption charges in three separate cases. His trial in the Jerusalem District Court resumed on Monday with the prosecution's opening arguments.
No party gained enough votes to form a majority government in the March 23 elections. It was Israel's fourth election in two years amid a lingering political deadlock.