Story highlights

Italy's polarized Parliament began casting votes for a new president Thursday

After four rounds of voting, no candidate has enough votes to win the presidency

A two-thirds majority is needed to win the presidency

A new round of voting is scheduled for Saturday morning

Rome CNN —  

After four rounds of parliamentary voting, no candidate for Italy’s presidency had won enough support Friday to win.

A fifth vote was scheduled to take place Saturday morning.

Italy’s polarized Parliament began casting votes Thursday for a new president to take the place of the incumbent Giorgio Napolitano, whose term expires next month.

The election of a new president could be the first step toward solving a political impasse that has gripped Italy since February’s general election left a three-way split between the right, the left and a wild-card party.

The presidential voting process is open to 1,007 elected representatives: the 630 deputies in the lower house, 315 senators plus four senators-for-life, and 58 regional delegates.

A two-thirds majority, or 672 votes, is needed to win the presidency.

The secret ballot is taking place inside the Chamber of Deputies, or lower house of Parliament.

Usually the senators vote first, then the deputies, then the regional delegates. They can vote for any citizen over 50 with full civil and political rights.

Napolitano’s seven-year term ends on May 15.

While the Italian presidency is largely a ceremonial role, it can become a critical one in times of political crisis.

The issue has been that, under the constitution, the Italian president cannot dissolve Parliament and call for new elections in the last six months of his mandate.

The election of a new president could help move Italy out of its current political gridlock.

CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.