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Reluctant incumbent emerges as frontrunner in Italian presidential election

80-year-old Italian President Sergio Mattarella has emerged as the frontrunner in the country's ongoing presidential election, ABC News reports.

Matarella specifically asked not to be considered for a second seven-year term and has already rented an apartment in Rome to which he plans to retire when his term expires in February.

The Italian president, who wields significant power, is elected by a group of 1,009 parliamentarians and regional representatives. Voting is conducted by secret ballot, which makes whipping votes very difficult.

Sen. Matteo Salvini, a right-wing leader and former deputy prime minister, put forward Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati as the preferred candidate of the center-right bloc, but she won only 382 votes

After six rounds of balloting in which the candidates proposed by Italy's various political coalitions failed to garner the 505 votes needed to win, increasing numbers of lawmakers defected and began casting votes for Mattarella.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi asked Mattarella on Saturday to stay in office "for the good and stability of the country," according to Reuters.