Italy has re-elected President Giorgio Napolitano for a second term following a last-minute deal between party chiefs to break the deadlock after five previous ballots failed to produce a winner.
With the support of all major parties, except the 5-Star Movement, Napolitano easily won the vote on Saturday, which required more than 50 percent of votes in a special sitting of both houses of parliament.
Napolitano, who at 87 is already among the world’s oldest heads of state, may not serve the full seven-year term and could resign after the political stalemate that has lasted since an inconclusive February election is solved.
Earlier on Saturday, Napolitano had put forward his candidacy for another term as Italy’s president after the main political parties appealed for him to help resolve a deepening crisis.
“I consider it necessary to offer my availability,” Napolitano said in a statement after no candidate won a majority of votes in the joint session of parliament.
Stefano Rodota, an academic and human rights advocate who is the candidate for former comic Beppe Grillo’s left-wing Five Star Movement, received the highest number of votes with 210 of the required 504 ballots.
The deepening crisis comes after politicians from the main parties said they would either not participate or would cast empty ballots earlier on Saturday, after Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the Democratic Party (PD) announced he would resign once a new head of state was elected.
The PD has been in turmoil after both candidates proposed by Bersani, former trade unionist Franco Marini and then former European Commission president Romano Prodi failed to be elected in voting on Thursday and Friday.
The political impasse caused by February’s inconclusive general election has stoked concern about stability in the recession-hit country, the eurozone’s third largest economy.
The presidency, an office elected by parliamentarians and regional representatives, is a largely ceremonial position, but is important at times of political instability like the present, when the president plays a major role in forming a government.
Napolitano had been unable to find a way out of the crisis with his powers restricted at the end of his mandate.
In the final months of his mandate Napolitano was constitutionally prevented from dissolving parliament and calling fresh elections.