Sergio Mattarella becomes Italy's new president

Sergio Mattarella becomes Italy's 12th president.

Sicilian anti-mafia judge Sergio Mattarella was elected Italy's new president on 30 January, succeeding 89-year-old Giorgio Napolitano, who resigned as head of state on 14 January.

The Palermo-born president-elect, who was endorsed by Italy's premier Matteo Renzi, will be sworn-in for a seven-year term at a ceremony in the lower house at 10.00 on 3 February.

Mattarella was backed by Renzi's centre-left Partita Democratica (PD), the Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (SEL) and centre-right Nuovo Centrodestra (NCD). However Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia party was opposed to Mattarella's election, and its members cast blank papers.

The 73-year-old, who needed a two-thirds majority on the first three ballots, was elected on the fourth ballot with an absolute majorty, following three rounds of inconclusive results. He won 665 votes of the 1,009 electors from both houses of parliament and regional representatives.

His first statement following his election was: "My thoughts go first and especially to the difficulties and hopes of our fellow citizens."

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The candidate of the anti-establishment Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) party, magistrate Ferdinando Imposimato, came second with 127 votes. Mattarella, who becomes Italy's 12th president, entered politics in 1983, three years after the Mafia murdered his brother, Piersanti, the governor of Sicily.

He was first elected as a left-leaning member of the now-defunct Democrazia Cristiana (DC) party, which dominated Italian politics for half a century and was founded by Mattarella's father Bernardo in 1943.

Mattarella was a member of parliament from 1983 to 2008, serving as education minister from 1989 until his resignation a year later over new legislation to liberalise Italy's media sector, which he viewed as a favour to media magnate Berlusconi.

He returned to a ministerial position in 1999, this time as a member of the Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI) which formed following the dissolution of the DC, and was a percursor to Renzi's PD party.

Mattarella served as minister of defence from 1999 to 2001, and in 2011 the parliament elected him as a judge at the Constitutional Court.

Mattarella, who has a reputation for being reserved but straight-talking, is the first Sicilian to hold the office of Italian president. He was married to Marisa Chiazzese, who died in 2012, and he has three children.

The rapid voting was a contrast to the failure to elect a new president in April 2013 which led to the temporary re-election of Giorgio Napolitano.