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Italian lawmakers fail to elect new president in first round amid stalemate

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Prime Minister Mario Draghi is viewed as the frontrunner and the most qualified candidate to replace outgoing president Sergio Mattarella. (Photo by AFP)

Italian lawmakers have failed to elect a new president, after blank ballots were cast in the first round of voting in the country’s presidential election amid a political deadlock.

While two-thirds majority is needed to win the election during the first three rounds, lawmakers had cast just 672 ballots, without a name, six hours after the voting began on Monday.

Italian “grand electors”, drawn from the parliament and some regional delegations, voted in a tense state but failed to reach a consensus candidate, waiting for the second round of voting on Tuesday.

The second round of voting on Tuesday afternoon is unlikely to yield a conclusion with more political consultations scheduled, according to reports.

Blank ballots came in first with 672 in number and 85-year-old former judge Paolo Maddalena came in far behind with 36 votes.

Both votes and nominees are kept secret as any Italian over the age of 50 without a criminal record can be chosen.

Outgoing President Sergio Mattarella, who is due to step down on February 3, was among those who garnered support with some 16 votes.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief is seen as the frontrunner and the most qualified candidate to replace Mattarella .

With only one year in power, Draghi was able to stabilize Italy’s politics and put in place the country’s major economic plans for the upcoming 200 billion Euros in European recovery funds.  

Draghi’s supporters are keen to keep him in the chair of prime minister, but others insist on him becoming the head of state. The presidential seat is a ceremonial post, but holds considerable power during political crisis.

If Draghi were to win the election, replacing the prime minister would be immediately needed, otherwise Italy will turn into a fractured and chaotic politics, according to experts.

No clear results are expected until the fourth round on Thursday, when the majority threshold drops to 505 votes, making it more likely for a consensus.

The voting process could go on for days if the grand electoral do not agree on someone. Only three presidents were chosen in the first round, but it took Italy 23 ballots once to choose president.

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