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Ehud Olmert authorized a primary in his political party, Kadima.

Beseiged by scandal and trailing in the polls, the prime minister’s go-ahead Wednesday may mean the end of his turn at Israel’s helm.

Olmert revealed his decision in a meeting with the head of Kadima’s steering committee, Knesset member Tzachi Hanegbi.

“The prime minister instructed us to act quickly to set primaries in Kadima,” Hanegbi said. “The process has started running.”

Hanegbi will convene the Kadima party next week to continue the process but said he does not expect the primary to be held before the July 17 cross-examination of U.S. businessman Morris Talansky in the illicit funding investigation against Olmert. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

Olmert apparently changed his mind over holding a primary when Israel’s public security minister, Avi Dichter, who is a Kadima member, called for a primary no later than the beginning of September. Dichter said the exact date should be decided by July.

In the meantime, a Knesset bill to dissolve the Knesset and hold new elections in November is gaining support. Meretz signed on to the bill Tuesday, giving the measure launched by Likud lawmaker Silvan Shalom 74 votes in the 120-member Knesset.

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