FACTBOX: Will Israel hold early elections?

Thu Jun 12, 2008 5:09am EDT

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(Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is under fire in a corruption scandal and his main coalition partner voiced support on Thursday for legislation to dissolve parliament and force an early general election.

Here are some answers to key questions on Olmert's future, Israeli politics and on what could happen next:

What are Olmert's options?

- Step aside, initially temporarily, and leave Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as acting prime minister, keeping his party and the government intact -- a move many analysts say is unlikely given rivalry between the two.

- Resign outright and accept retirement. That could also leave Livni in charge, though preparations are under way for an internal election within their centrist Kadima party.

- Do nothing, and possibly face a vote that would dissolve parliament and call early elections.

What needs to happen for parliament to be dissolved?

- Both the opposition Likud and Olmert's junior coalition partner Labour have drafted separate bills proposing dissolution of the Knesset. Labour Party leader Ehud Barak said on Thursday that "as things stand now" it would push for a preliminary vote on its bill on June 25. The Likud has proposed holding the vote on June 18. A Knesset spokeswoman said a final date would be set on Monday.

The bill must pass three votes, which could stretch past a Knesset summit recess that ends in late October, to become law.

When would a general election take place?

- No later than five months after the dissolution bill was passed -- so before the end of 2008 -- but no earlier than 90 days after the bill's final approval -- so not before late October. Municipal elections are scheduled for November 11 and could be postponed to allow a general election to be held that day.

Who would benefit from holding a general election before it is next due in spring 2010?

- Polls show Likud is likely to be the biggest party, giving its leader Benjamin Netanyahu the strongest case to be prime minister.

(Reporting by Avida Landau; Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

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