Spain’s Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez has failed for the second time in a week to form a government after his proposal was defeated by parliament.
In a 219-131 vote, MPs rejected Mr Sanchez’s proposed coalition cabinet with the centre-right Ciudadanos party.
If MPs fail to choose a government by 2 May, a snap poll will be held in June.
Spain has been governed by a caretaker cabinet of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy following December’s inconclusive elections.
The influence of the two traditional parties – the Socialists (PSOE) and Mr Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) – has been diluted by the rise of the anti-austerity Podemos movement and Ciudadanos.
On Friday Mr Sanchez failed to secure an absolute majority in the 250-member parliament, with only Ciudadanos and a small party from the Canary Islands backing his proposal.
“I am going to keep working until I achieve this majority which our country needs,” Mr Sanchez said after the vote.
He also said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias “has betrayed his party’s voters and he is responsible for Rajoy remaining as prime minister”.
Meanwhile, Mr Rajoy described Mr Sanchez’s proposed alliance with the Ciudadanos as “theatre”.
The Socialist leader’s first attempt to form a coalition cabinet was rejected by parliament on Wednesday.
Between them, the PSOE and the Ciudadanos command only 130 seats in the lower chamber.
The PP gained most votes in the 20 December election – but Mr Rajoy was unable to secure enough backing to form a government.
The PSOE performed badly, hit by the emergence of Podemos and Ciudadanos, and the fragmented political landscape has eluded efforts to agree a governing coalition.