News in Italy: Mattarella elected president a second time after ruling parties implore him to stay.
Italy's president Sergio Mattarella was re-elected on Saturday evening after lawmakers begged him to stay, amid a failure by parties to find another mutually agreeable candidate to serve as head of state.
Mattarella was elected at the eighth ballot, passing the quorum of 505 votes, days before his seven-year term of office was due to end on 3 February.
The 80-year-old, who had repeatedly made it clear that he wanted to retire, agreed to serve again after Italian premier Mario Draghi and party leaders pleaded with him on Saturday to stay on "for the good and stability of the country," sources told news agency ANSA.
"I had other plans but I am here if needed," Mattarella reportedly said, adding: "I will do my best."
His re-election follows a week of disagreements and deadlock between Italy's centre-right and centre-left, neither of which had enough votes in parliament to push through their own candidates, resulting in a sucession of vetoes, abstentions and fruitless votes.
The complex process of electing a new head of state began on Monday, with an electoral college comprising 1,009 parliamentarians and regional delegates convening at Palazzo Chigi in Rome.
Draghi, 74, had long been tipped as the frontrunner to succeed Mattarella, and he recently hinted he would be willing to switch from premier to president.
However by the time it came to voting for a new head of state, there was a growing fear among Italy's parties that Draghi's departure would risk political turmoil, either triggering elections a year ahead of schedule or resulting in the installation of a new premier to lead the broad coalition.
It is also a widely-held view that the former European Central Bank chief is the most qualified person to oversee reforms and implement the EU’s multi-billion post-pandemic recovery fund.
Under the "new" arrangement, Mattarella and Draghi retain their existing roles, maintaining the status quo and keeping the national unity government intact, at least until the scheduled end of the parliamentary term in spring 2023.
Mattarella, who has been in office since 2015, recently signed a lease for a house in Rome which he had been set to move into next week after vacating the president's residence at the Quirinal Palace.
Voting in Italy's presidential race is held in secret and a two thirds majority is needed on the first three ballots and then after that by an absolute majority.
Mattarella is Italy's 12th president since the office was established on 1 January 1948 after Italians voted in a post-war referendum to replace the monarchy with a republic.
The role of head of state, Italy's highest office, is largely ceremonial and the president acts as guarantor of the constitution.
However the president plays a key role during times of political crisis and has the power to appoint a prime minister and give mandates to form a government.
Mattarella's predecessor Giorgio Napolitano is Italy's only president to have been re-elected, as part of efforts to resolve the political stalemate left by an inconclusive general election. He served for a further two years before standing down.
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