A fourth attempt to elect a new Italian president drew another blank Thursday but hopes are mounting that parliament would settle the issue within the next 24 hours.

The election that has been taking place daily since Monday is being closely watched as the new head of state will have a crucial role in maintaining political order in the eurozone’s third-largest economy.

A little more than 1,000 national and regional parliamentarians known as the Grand Electors take part in the secret vote which is often compared to a papal conclave because it is unpredictable and rife with intrigue.

“I don’t think that we will close [a deal] today, I think that we will tomorrow,” former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who leads the small centrist Italy Alive party, said ahead of Thursday’s vote.

Hours later, 441 electors abstained, 261 cast blank ballots and 166 voted for outgoing President Sergio Mattarella, who has faced calls to stay on for a second term but has indicated he wants to retire.

The center-right bloc had announced it was going to abstain, while the center-left Democratic Party and Five Star Movement said they would continue casting blank ballots while the search for a compromise candidate continued.

Centrist lawmaker Maurizio Lupi told reporters that the center-right bloc had given a “mandate” to the leader of the far-right League party, Matteo Salvini, “to close (a deal) today with the center-left,” in time for another vote Friday.

According to most observers, the election was shaping up as a three-way race between Prime Minister Mario Draghi, former parliamentary speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini and the head of the secret services, career diplomat Elisabetta Belloni.

Draghi, the ex-president of the European Central Bank, is highly-respected internationally but there are concerns that moving him from his job would make it difficult to create a new government, possibly triggering early elections that most parties do not want.

His chances largely depend “on a cross-party agreement on the identity of his successor as prime minister and the future governing arrangement – a ‘grand bargain’ that is proving elusive,” according to Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of the Teneo consultancy.

Casini, a veteran Christian Democrat with a lower international profile, would be a popular fallback option for many lawmakers.

Belloni would be Italy’s first female president but some balk at the idea of putting a spy chief in a top political position.

In Italy, presidents are the cornerstone of the political system, serving a 7-year tenure, while prime ministers change almost yearly.

Presidents name prime ministers, call elections, influence government policy discreetly and can veto laws or ministerial appointments.​​​​​​​

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