(ANSA) - ROME, JAN 28 - The centre right on abstained in the sixth ballot to elect a new Italian president Friday while the centre left cast blank ballots as the stalemate on finding a successor to President Sergio Mattarella continued.
In the fifth ballot the centre right failed in its bid to elect Senate Speaker Elisabetta Casellati.
Centre-right Forza Italia (FI) Senate Speaker Anna Maria Bernini said "we have opened negotiations with the centre-left, let's see (what happens)", and centre-left Democratic Party (PD) leader Enrico Letta and his centre-left ally, 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Giuseppe Conte, met with rightwing League leader Matteo Salvini.
There will be two votes a day until a new president is elected, with Premier Mario Draghi still the bookies' favourite.
The PD, the formerly populist M5S, the left-wing LeU group and their nominal ally in the centrist IV party abstained in the fifth ballot, saying a consensus figure is needed, not the pick of one side of the political spectrum.
Neither the centre-left or the centre-right bloc has enough votes on its own to carry the election.
The centre right abstained in the sixth ballot while the centre left cast blank ballots. There are another two rounds of voting on both Saturday and Sunday, with no end currently in sight.
In the past it has taken as many as 23 rounds to elect a new president.
Casellati is a member of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's FI party, a devout anti-abortion Catholic, and had been criticised for a notorious past Berlusconi majority vote approving a motion that a 17-year-old Moroccan runaway dancer the three-time ex-premier and media mogul paid for sex with was in fact the niece of late Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.
The centre right said she was a bipartisan institutional figure of unimpeachable standing.
A sixth ballot of the 1,009 grand electors - lawmakers from both houses of parliament and regional representatives - started at 5 pm and the count was expected to produce another inconclusive result.
A simple majority is needed to elect a successor to President Sergio Mattarella, so the magic number is 505.
In the fifth ballot Casellati got 382 votes while 406 grand electors abstained.
Mattarella, who is coming to the end of his seven-year term and has said he does not want to be re-elected, got 46 votes, down from 166 in Thursday's fourth ballot.
The centre right's decision to vote for Casellati has caused tension within the broad coalition supporting Premier Mario Draghi's government.
"They messed us about for three days," said PD leader Letta referring to the centre right, which is made up of FI, the rightwing League and the opposition right-wing Brothers of Italy (FdI) party.
"They tried to divide us with fanciful ideas".
Draghi remains the bookies' favourite to get the top institutional post in the eurozone's third-largest economy and his chances are reportedly rising as the stalemate continues but many MPs fear the election of the euro's saviour as ECB chief will lead to them losing their seats in a snap election a year before the natural end of the parliamentary term.
Many MPs and the domestic and international business community are also worried that his departure may jeopardise key reforms to the justice and tax systems and public administration needed to secure almost 200 billion euros in EU post-COVID recovery funds, helping turn Italy into a more modern, efficient and greener economy.
The president is a largely ceremonial figure representing national unity and upholding the Constitution as a sort of moral compass for the nation, but can wield power in government crises by naming premiers and may also ask parliament to reconsider legislation.