The Spanish Parliament rejected acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's bid Wednesday for a second term in office, deepening the country's political stalemate after nearly nine months without a government and two inconclusive elections.
Rajoy was six votes shy of the 176 needed for an absolute majority in the 350-member body. He now faces a second round of voting Friday, in which a simple majority would be sufficient for him to form a new government.
If Rajoy once again fails, the parties will then have two months to reach a compromise before King Felipe VI will have to call a third election, which would fall on Christmas Day.
Spain's four largest parties were unable to agree on a coalition government following elections in December and then again in June, leaving the country in political paralysis.
After the June election, in which Rajoy's centre-right People's Party (PP) emerged as the strongest party, the acting premier appealed to the Socialist party, the country's second-largest political force.
But the Socialists once again rejected a coalition with the conservatives.
Rajoy's PP has the promised support of Ciudadanos (Citizens), Spain's liberal party, and the conservative Canarian Coalition, which secures him 170 votes in the 350-member chamber.
During the months of political limbo, Spain has not passed a single new law, including measures address its mounting debt problems.