Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has begun consultations with representatives of parties elected to parliament last week to hear who they would recommend as prime minister.

Technically, Rivlin has seven days after receiving the official final results of the parliamentary election, which will only be published on March 25, but he wanted to open the talks "as soon as possible" in order to ensure a new government is quickly in place, his spokesperson, Jason Pearlman, said.

"He cannot name a candidate to form the next government before Wednesday," Pearlman said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party scored an unexpected election victory on March 17, taking 30 of the parliament's 120 seats, compared with 24 for its closest challenger, the centre-left Zionist Union.

In Israel, it is not necessarily the leader of the largest party who forms the next government and becomes the premier, but the one who can form a working coalition, preferably with a majority of at least 61 - in this case, Netanyahu.

"It is very likely that President Rivlin will be inviting Mr Netanyahu to form a government," Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from West Jerusalem, said on Sunday.

However, Netanyuhu will have to do "a lot of political horse-trading" for securing the victory, Tyab said, as he is far short of 61 seats in the parliament that he needs to form a government.

Narrow coalition

Rivlin was to meet first with Likud representatives on Sunday, followed by those of the Zionist Union headed by Isaac Herzog, who has ruled out joining a government of national unity.

He will then meet with representatives of the Joint List which groups the main Arab parties and came third in the vote, winning 13 seats, Pearlman said.

Netanyahu wants to put together a narrow coalition of rightwing and religious parties which would have a 67-seat majority.

The coalition would include Likud (30), the far-right Jewish Home (8), the hardline anti-Arab Yisrael Beitenu (6), the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas (7) and United Torah Judaism (6), and the newly formed centre-right Kulanu party of Likud defector Moshe Kahlon (10).

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies