Italian MEP David-Maria Sassoli was elected president of the European Parliament on Wednesday, propelled to victory thanks to a recommendation from EU leaders to put a socialist at the helm of the legislature.

Sassoli won 345 votes in the second round of balloting. Jan Zahradil won 160 votes and Ska Keller 119, according to POLITICO.

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He is due to serve for two-and-a half years – half the parliamentary term – before passing the torch to a member of the center-right European People's Party for the rest of the mandate.

In his remarks to MEPs before the vote, Sassoli – who as a former TV journalist has a profile in Italy but is not well known outside the country – said he had decided to run because "Europe will be stronger only with a Parliament which plays a more important role."