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Renzi's pick for Italian president in election could cost him support for his reform agenda

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ROME — Italian Premier Matteo Renzi's candidate in this week's presidential election could cost him backing for his reform agenda.

Lawmakers were voting in Parliament Friday, a day after a first round fell far short of producing the two-thirds majority needed to elect a new head of state. Chances of victory improve on Saturday, when only a simple majority is needed.

PHOTO: An unidentified lawmaker casts his vote at the lower chamber during a voting session for the election of the new Italian President in Rome, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. Lawmakers failed to elect a new Italian president Thursday in balloting that tests Premier Matteo Renzi's ability to rally his fractured party behind a candidate that is also acceptable to opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi, whose support he has courted for the government's ambitious reform agenda. Even as the names on the hand-written ballots from the 1,009 electors were still being read aloud, it was clear that, as expected, no candidate had come remotely close to the two-thirds majority needed to elect a new head of state in the first three rounds. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
An unidentified lawmaker casts his vote at the lower chamber during a voting session for the election of the new Italian President in Rome, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. Lawmakers failed to elect a new Italian president Thursday in balloting that tests Premier Matteo Renzi's ability to rally his fractured party behind a candidate that is also acceptable to opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi, whose support he has courted for the government's ambitious reform agenda. Even as the names on the hand-written ballots from the 1,009 electors were still being read aloud, it was clear that, as expected, no candidate had come remotely close to the two-thirds majority needed to elect a new head of state in the first three rounds. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Renzi has urged his Democrats and coalition allies to vote for Sergio Mattarella, a constitutional court justice.

But the choice angered opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi's forces. Decades ago, Mattarella raised conflict-of-interest concerns after the media mogul jumped into politics.

The risk for Renzi is that Berlusconi might now renege on promises to back the premier on electoral reforms aimed at making governments more stable.

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