Italian lawmakers and regional representatives begin electing the country's new president Monday.
More than 1,000 voters will chose a successor to President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who steps down in 10 days.
The vote is seen as a test for Italy's new prime minister, Romano Prodi, who must wait for a new president to be elected before he can form a government.
The role of Italy's president is largely a ceremonial one. The preferred candidate of Mr. Prodi's center-left bloc is Massimo D'Alema, the president of the largest party in the coalition. However, the center-right opposition backs outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's undersecretary, Gianni Letta.
To win, a candidate needs a two-thirds majority. If three votes are held with no winner, a simple majority decides the following votes. Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.