The President's main foreign affairs responsibilites consist of meeting the representatives of foreign governments and hosting official functions; representing Italy on state visits abroad; officially ratifying international treaties and if required, declaring war.
In the Italian parliament, he is responsible for calling an election; naming the prime minister and appointing the government and the cabinet; receiving the resignation of the prime minister and dissolving parliament; In addition, he nominates 5 senators-for-life.
Candidates must be over 50 years of age and must give up any existing political office before they can assume the presidency.
The President is elected for a seven year term by secret ballot which is held in the Palazzo Montecitorio, home of the Italian parliament, and presided over by the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. The electoral college consists of 315 senators, 630 deputies and 58 regional representatives (3 sent from each region except Aosta which sends 1).
In order to be elected in one of the first three rounds of voting, the candidate must receive two thirds of the votes. From the fourth round onwards, a simple majority is sufficient.
There have been twelve presidents since the first was elected in 1948. Giorgio Napolitano was the first president to serve two terms, although he resigned before completing the second.