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Italy’s Renzi wrangles with leaders before presidency vote

Italy’s political leaders are holding talks to try to reach agreement on candidates as parliament prepares to vote for a new president.

Giorgio Napolitano, 89, stood down this month, citing “signs of fatigue”.

The post is largely ceremonial, but the vote is seen as an important moment for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Mr Renzi is said to back constitutional court judge Sergio Mattarella, but any candidate needs a two-thirds majority in the first three rounds of voting.

Mr Mattarella once served as defence minister and is a member of Mr Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

More than 1,000 people are set to vote in the procedure, which will start at 15:00 (14:00 GMT) on Thursday and is expected to continue until a fourth round on Saturday.

Twelfth president

Under the constitution, any Italian citizen over 50 can be nominated by MPs, and then the Chamber of Deputies and Senate are joined by 58 regional representatives to vote on the list of candidates.

Giorgio Napolitano (15 Jan)Giorgio Napolitano had been due to serve until 2020 but stood down because of poor health

No candidate is likely to win before the fourth round, when only a simple majority of 505 votes is needed.

Until then, one report suggests there could be as many as 49 candidates for the job of 12th president of the Italian republic.

The role has the key power of appointing a prime minister, which in Italy is quite a frequent task, says BBC Rome correspondent James Reynolds. Mr Napolitano named five prime ministers during his eight-and-a-half years in office.

Mr Napolitano retired earlier this month, aged 89, saying poor health meant he was no longer able to do his job as he wished.

He had only agreed to serve a second term in an attempt to end political paralysis after inconclusive elections in 2013.

Silvio Berlusconi (21 Jan)Mr Berlusconi is said to back another former prime minister, Giuliano Amato

Flurry of meetings

Mr Renzi’s party is thought to have the support of about 400 of the voters.

But he will need further backing from Nichi Vendola’s Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) Party, former members of Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Party, and possibly the centre-right Forza Italia Party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Matteo Renzi discussed the vote with Berlusconi on Wednesday but the ex-Prime Minister is said to support another former premier, Giuliano Amato.

Another potential candidate for Mr Renzi is the judge he appointed as head of Italy’s anti-corruption authority, Raffaele Cantone. According to Ansa news agency, the prime minister met Mr Cantone on Thursday morning.

A further flurry of meetings is expected to take place before voting begins.


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