When Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was elected head of state in 1999 it was a rare event in that it only took a single round.
The process can take far longer: Ciampi’s predecessor Oscar Luigi Scalfaro was elected after 13 days of voting.
Prodi was previously the Governor of Italy’s Central Bank as well as treasury and budget minister and prime minister.
He had no direct party affiliation and won friends across the political spectrum.
That meant the government and opposition agreed on his nomination in just one day.
Italy’s head of state is chosen by a group of
1010 people known as Grand Electors.
These are all the lawmakers from the Senate and the lower house of parliament as well as 58 representatives from Italy’s regions.
The vote is secret, and the winner needs a two-thirds majority, 674 votes, for the first three rounds of voting.
After that, an absolute majority, in other words 506 votes, is enough for a candidate to become president.
The post, with a seven year mandate, is largely ceremonial, and one popular move that Ciampi made was bringing back military parades celebrating the birth of the Italian Republic.
By inviting the opposition, as well as including Italian peacekeeping forces, he created widespread support for such patriotic events.
The head of state signs legislation and has the right to send laws back to parliament if he considers them unconstitutional.
Ciampi has done that twice, in December 2003 with Silvio Berlusconi’s law on media ownership and a year later with the judicial reform bill.
The president can also return laws that do not have sufficient financial backing.
It is also within his powers to nominate the prime minister and dissolve parliament.
Romano Prodi cannot form a
government until the new president gives him a formal mandate. Ciampi, who is 85 years old, ruled out taking that step himself, just as he declined to run for a second term.
Last year he won the Charlemagne Prize
for outstanding contributions to the cause of European understanding. Most observers say he has also won the respect of an entire country.