Italy's political crisis: Voting for president may begin from April 18

ROME (AFP) - Italy's parliament could begin voting on April 18 for a successor to President Giorgio Napolitano - a key part in the political puzzle as the country tries to form a new government following inconclusive elections more than a month ago.

Lower house speaker Laura Boldrini said in a statement on Wednesday that the two chambers of the Italian parliament would meet for a joint session starting on Monday, April 15, and regional representatives could join from April 18.

Italian presidents are elected by deputies, senators and representatives of the regions.

Mr Napolitano's seven-year mandate runs out May 15.

The post of president is largely ceremonial but the 87-year-old Napolitano is playing a crucial role in the current crisis as a respected mediator between bickering political parties.

The question of who will succeed Mr Napolitano is seen as part of the deal-making going on for the formation of a new government.

Mr Napolitano's successor would also be able to dissolve parliament and call new elections if all attempts to form a government fail.