'Peres bill' on on open presidential vote frozen

Hasson: "I've decided to freeze this bill on my own initiative and with no connection to Shimon Peres."

Vice Premier Shimon Peres's chances for success in the upcoming presidential election suffered a blow on Tuesday, following an announcement that work on the "Peres law," which would have MKs elect the head of state by open ballot, was frozen. MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima), who proposed the bill, said he had made the decision to freeze it until the upcoming elections end. "I've decided to freeze this bill on my own initiative and with no connection to Shimon Peres," Hasson said at a press conference. "I intend to raise it in the next Knesset session so that it will affect the election of the 10th president of this country." The MKs are due to elect Israel's ninth president this summer, by secret ballot. Peres has yet to officially announce his candidacy. Currently, MKs Colette Avital (Labor) and Reuven Rivlin (Likud) are the only declared candidates. On Monday, Peres again declined to say whether he would join the race, saying there was "still time" for him to announce his position. Hasson said he was sorry the bill had become known as the "Peres law" and that when he'd proposed it, he hadn't intended for it to become connected solely with Peres. "Many MKs with whom I've had discussions told me that they thought the bill was a good idea, but they couldn't support it in the middle of elections," Hasson said. "For this reason, I am freezing it now, but I plan to revive it when the election is over so that people know I'm advancing it as a good and just bill, and not just a bill to advance one candidate," he said. Hasson also hinted at the press conference that coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima) had not done enough to advance the legislation. Peres is widely believed to have lost the previous presidential elections because a number of MKs who publicly stated that they would vote for him voted for current President Moshe Katsav instead. "We see a lot of backhanded dealings because the presidential elections are conducted in secret," said Hasson. "I thought it would be better to make these elections clear, open and honest. I will still work for that in the next Knesset."