Jan 29, 7:06 AM EST

Italy lawmakers vote for new president in test for Renzi

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ROME (AP) -- Lawmakers cast ballots Thursday for a new Italian president in a vote testing Premier Matteo Renzi's abilty to rally his divided party behind his reform agenda and a single candidate.

No winner is expected Thursday: Polling is expected to last at least until Friday or Saturday since the threshold slips from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority after three rounds of voting.

The Italian president is a largely ceremonial figure with no political role, but he has powers to dissolve Parliament, call new elections and tap a candidate to form a new government, thus playing a crucial role in resolving Italy's not-infrequent political crises.

Two years ago, President Giorgio Napolitano reluctantly accepted an unprecedented second term after lawmakers couldn't agree on a successor.

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