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Italian MPs start voting for president as complex ballot procedure opens

ITALIAN legislators began voting to elect a new president today, which could take several days due to the complex secret ballot process.

Former president Silvio Berlusconi was forced to drop out of the contest after failing to garner enough support.

He is reported to have gone into hospital on Sunday for checks that were described as routine, although Italian media said that his family was worried about his health.

There are no formal candidates for the presidency, but whoever emerged victorious from the process — described as akin to the selection of a new Pope — is set to serve a seven-year term of office.

To win requires a two-thirds majority in the first three rounds of voting; in the fourth, an absolute majority is sufficient. Voting takes place once a day until a winner emerges.

The election of a president in the first round of voting has only happened three times.

Whoever wins will replace Sergio Mattarella, who will step down from the largely ceremonial role on February 3.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a former head of the European Central Bank, is the frontrunner, although Mr Berlusconi insisted that Mr Draghi should continue to lead the government until 2023 to avoid another general election.

Mr Draghi has not commented on his potential candidacy, but there is speculation that former Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao is being lined up to replace him as premier.


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