The Italian parliament on Saturday re-elected President Giorgio Napolitano to serve a second term in an attempt to resolve the political stalemate following February's inconclusive election.
Napolitano was overwhelmingly elected by the 1,007 parliamentarians and regional representatives in a sixth round of voting after they had failed to find a mutually acceptable candidate in the previous attempts.
As most of parliament cheered his re-election, a group of around 500 demonstrators protested outside, with a much larger rally planned later in the day.
In normal circumstances the presidency is a largely ceremonial position, but at times of political instability the president plays a crucial role in forming a government and has the power to dissolve parliament.
At 87, Napolitano is one of the world's oldest heads of state and the fact that most of the main political forces virtually begged him to continue despite his numerous previous refusals shows the depth of the current impasse.
In almost two months since the election, Napolitano has failed to broker a solution to the gridlock that emerged from the February election which left no coalition with enough seats in parliament to form a government.
He is now expected to push for a broad coalition government. This possibility has so far been rejected by the centre-left, which won most seats at the election and refused to join forces with Berlusconi's centre-right.