Berlusconi, who served Italy four times as prime minister, failed to garner enough support for his bid and in a heartfelt letter wrote that in the spirit of “national responsibility” he asked his backers to “give up” identifying him as a contender. He has reportedly been in the hospital since Thursday.

Italian parliamentarians will begin casting their votes for a new president on Monday after the scandal-plagued 85-year old former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi abandoned his dream of becoming the next head of state, reports the Guardian.

More than 1,000 lawmakers and regional delegates will participate in the complex secret ballot, described as being akin to the appointment of a new pope, that could go through several rounds before a successor to Sergio Mattarella, who is due to step down on 3 February, is elected.

The winner of the seven-year mandate requires a two-thirds majority within the first three rounds of voting; from the fourth, an absolute majority is sufficient. Only on three occasions in the history of the election has a new president emerged in the first round.

Berlusconi, who served Italy four times as prime minister, failed to garner enough support for his bid and in a heartfelt letter wrote that in the spirit of “national responsibility” he asked his backers to “give up” identifying him as a contender.

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