Vote for Italian president ends in stalemate in first round
Parliament's clerks open ballot boxes at the end of a voting session in the Italian parliament, in Rome, Italy, January 24, 2022. /CFP

Parliament's clerks open ballot boxes at the end of a voting session in the Italian parliament, in Rome, Italy, January 24, 2022. /CFP

Italian lawmakers failed to elect a new president in an initial secret ballot on Monday, as party leaders met behind the scenes to try to agree on a consensus candidate and avoid damaging political instability.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi remains the most likely contender, but worries that his promotion to head of state might shatter his coalition government and trigger early national elections have complicated his prospects.

A second round of voting will be held on Tuesday after a majority of the 1,008 "grand electors" cast blank ballots on Monday in a vote that lasted almost five hours.

Although largely ceremonial, the Italian presidential post is also highly influential, with the head of state often called on to resolve political crises in the eurozone's third largest economy.

Draghi has made clear he would like the prestigious job, but major parties have not yet endorsed him, fearful that his move could disrupt the fight against COVID-19 and hurt efforts to receive billions of euros from EU pandemic relief funds.

"I am working to ensure that in the next few hours the center-right will offer not just one but several quality proposals," rightist League leader Matteo Salvini said on Monday night, suggesting no consensus was building behind Draghi.

Salvini was at the core of Monday's cross-party talks, separately meeting the leader of the center-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, and former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who heads the 5-Star Movement, the largest force in parliament.

After the meeting with Letta, Salvini and Conte said they were "working on some options" and would see each other again on Tuesday. 5-Star said there was agreement on the need to find a mutually acceptable candidate "that unites the country."

A successful candidate needs a two-thirds majority in any of the first three rounds of voting, with an absolute majority enough thereafter. Only three presidents have been elected in the first round, with the vast majority elevated from the fourth round onwards.

Parliament in the joint session of both houses will keep gathering this week to hold new rounds of voting until a candidate gathers enough support.

The seven-year term of President Sergio Mattarella will expire on February 3.

Read more: 

Italy's parliament starts voting for president

(With input from Reuters, Xinhua)

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