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Italians fail to choose president

ROME — Italian lawmakers failed on Thursday to elect the nation’s president during an initial two rounds of voting, the latest worrisome evidence of the political discord thwarting the formation of a government for two months.

President Giorgio Napolitano’s term ends next month, and choosing his successor is viewed as a critical step toward resolving the political impasse that resulted from inconclusive national elections for Parliament in February.

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While the presidency is mostly ceremonial, the post has the power to dissolve Parliament and call a new national election and also tap the candidate with enough support in the legislature to try to form a government.

During Thursday’s vote by both houses of Parliament and regional electors, Franco Marini, a longtime union leader and former Senate president, finished first in the initial ballot, but fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed during the first three rounds of voting.

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