Spain's parliament rejected Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez's bid to be confirmed as prime minister on Thursday, putting the euro zone's fourth-largest economy on the path to what could be its fourth national election in as many years.
Sanchez in theory has until mid-September to win parliament's backing – but the Socialists said this month they would give up trying to install him if he failed to secure confirmation in July.
The Socialist party won an election in April but fell short of a majority. It needed the support of the far-left Unidas Podemos to be confirmed but the two parties failed to reach a deal on a coalition government.
"A deal wasn't possible," Sanchez told lawmakers, before adding: "I want to be Spain's prime minister, but not at any price."
Sanchez strongly criticised the way Podemos and its leader Pablo Iglesias had conducted the talks, but did not say what his next step would be.
If he decides against a further attempt or he is unsuccessful, a repeat election will be held on Nov. 10, Spain's fourth in as many years.
Spain faces several challenges for which it needs a stable government: an ongoing separatist movement in its northeastern region of Catalonia, high unemployment, low wages and job insecurity.
Since 2015, the country has shifted from a two-party system to a deeply fragmented parliament with the emergence of Podemos, liberal party Ciudadanos and more recently far-right Vox.
That has resulted in minority governments which have been unable to get any major reforms through, and Sanchez was forced to call early elections in February when his draft budget was rejected.
Apart from Podemos's vote, Sanchez also needed the backing of several other lawmakers from regional parties who had conditioned their support – by a vote in favour or an abstention – on a deal with Podemos.
The negotiations between Sanchez and Iglesias became deadlocked on the question of what role Podemos would play in a coalition government, which would be Spain's first in the modern era.
Three months of frequently acrimonious talks suggest that, even if there eventually was any coalition government, it could be vulnerable to similar divisions.
FRANCE 24, AFP, REUTERS