Parties have voted overwhelmingly for President Mattarella to remain for a second term, averting the political chaos a failure to elect his successor could have sparked in the eurozone's third-largest economy.

Applause broke out in Parliament as Sergio Mattarella won in the eighth round of voting.
Applause broke out in Parliament as Sergio Mattarella won in the eighth round of voting. (AFP)

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has been elected to a second seven-year term as the country's head of state, ending days of political impasse by party leaders that risked eroding the nation's credibility.

Mattarella won in the eighth round of voting on Saturday when he clinched the minimum of 505 votes needed from the eligible 1,009 Grand Electors.

Applause broke out in Parliament, prompting the Chamber of Deputies president to interrupt his reading aloud of the ballots. The count then resumed, with Mattarella continuing on to win 759 votes.

Earlier, lawmakers entreated Mattarella, 80, who had said he didn’t want a second mandate, to change his mind and agree to reelection by lawmakers in Parliament and regional delegates.

Mattarella's term ends on February 3. His reelection followed days of fruitless efforts by political leaders to reach a consensus on another candidate.  

READ MORE: Italy's Mattarella asked to continue as president amid parliament stalemate

Lobbying bears fruit

Ahead of the presidential election this week, Mattarella repeatedly said he doesn't want another stint. He even rented an apartment in Rome to prepare for his move from the presidential palace atop Quirinal Hill.

But after a seventh round of balloting in six days in Parliament failed to yield any consensus on a presidential candidate, party whips and regional governors visited Mattarella at the presidential palace to solicit his willingness.

Rai state TV said Premier Mario Draghi, a non-partisan former chief of the European Central Bank who is leading a pandemic unity government, telephoned party leaders to encourage the lobbying.

Draghi had previously indicated he would be willing to move into the president's role, but some party leaders thought that would prompt an early election.

Mattarella's willingness to serve again "is a choice of generosity toward the country'', Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta told a news conference minutes before Saturday's second, conclusive round of voting began.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who heads the centre-right Forza Italia party he founded, said "today can only be found around the figure of President Sergio Mattarella, of whom we know we're asking a great sacrifice."

Italy's presidency is a generally largely ceremonial role that sees the head of state make official trips abroad or receives visiting foreign leaders to strengthen Italy’s international relations. 

On occasion, the president can send legislation back to Parliament to modify aspects deemed not in keeping with the post-war Constitution.

A Palermo native, Mattarella began his career in Parliament in 1983. He was active in the Catholic social movement faction of the Christian Democrats, then the dominant post-war party in Italy.

Mattarella had been serving as a judge on the nation’s constitutional court from 2011 until his election as head of state on January 31, 2015.

READ MORE: Italian leaders agree to speed up presidential vote as stalemate continues

Source: AP