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

Italy lawmakers fail to elect president in first vote

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

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.

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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