January 29, 2015 / 5:43 PM / 3 years ago

Italy lawmakers fail to elect president in first vote

ROME (Reuters) - Italian lawmakers failed to elect a state president in the first round of voting on Thursday, with no candidate coming close to the required threshold of two thirds of those eligible to vote.

An assistant opens a ballot box at the end of the vote session at the Chambers of Deputies in Rome January 29, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Before the first round of voting closed, more than one third of the 1,009 parliamentarians and regional officials had cast a blank ballot.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has called for his Democratic Party to support constitutional court judge Sergio Mattarella, but not until the fourth round of voting when only a simple majority is required. The fourth round is likely to take place on Saturday.

Although historically a largely ceremonial figure, the Italian head of state has important powers at times of political instability - a frequent occurrence in Italy. The president can dissolve parliament, call elections, and pick prime ministers.

Reporting by Isla Binnie; editing by Alessandra Galloni

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