Caretaker Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez lost a second confidence vote in Spain's parliament. He has two months to try to win a majority or call yet another election.
Thursday's confidence vote handed Sanchez only 124 "yes" votes, with another 155 lawmakers voting against him staying in office. He needed 176 voters in the 350-seat lower house.
To form a coalition, which would be Spain's first in the modern era, Sanchez's Socialists had negotiated with the far-left Podemos party, which came fourth in Spain's April general election.
Their talks stalled again on Wednesday evening, however, with Sanchez telling parliament on Thursday that he wanted to be prime minister, "but not at any price.”
"The deal has not been possible. I lament the historic opportunity that is slipping away," said Sanchez.
A first confidence vote bid had fallen through on Tuesday.
The Socialist deputy premier, Carmen Calvo, accused Podemos under Pablo Iglesias of submitting "unrealistic” demands for cabinet posts.
Sanchez's party had objected to Podemos wanting Spain's science and labor ministries after both parties agreed that Podemos would get the social issues and the health ministry ministries.
Iglesias accused Sanchez of avoiding negotiations until the last "48 hours."
In theory, Sanchez has until mid-September to still win parliament's backing, but the Socialists had warned that they would balk if Sanchez's confirmation did not happen in July.
Without a deal, a snap election would need to be held in November, which would be Spain's fourth poll in as many years.
Until then, the Socialists can continue to govern as a minority government.
Spain's staid two-party parliamentary system has fragmented since 2015, with the emergence of Podemos, the liberal party Ciudadanos and more recently the far-right Vox — alongside Catalan and Basque separatist parties.
ipj/amp (AFP, Reuters, dpa)