Spanish acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez looked all but certain to lose a parliamentary confirmation vote on Thursday after coalition talks with far-left Unidas Podemos collapsed, raising the possibility of a repeat election.
It would be Spain’s fourth election in as many years as parties struggle to clinch alliances in an increasingly fragmented political landscape.
Sanchez, whose Socialist party won an April parliamentary poll but fell short of a majority, needs Podemos to support him and at least one other smaller party to abstain to reach the simple majority he needs to be confirmed as premier.
He lost a first confirmation vote on Tuesday and barring any last minute surprises, a victory for him on Thursday looked unlikely. The debate is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) with voting expected to take place at around 2:25 p.m.
Saying it wanted to break the deadlock in the talks, Podemos circulated a proposal for a coalition deal with just hours to go before the vote. This was immediately shot down by the Socialist party, with sources saying they would not budge on their own proposal.
If defeated, Sanchez, who has little support among other parties, can call a repeat election on Nov. 10 or make another attempts to get parliament’s backing in September.
“They are irresponsible,” Gabriel Rufian, a parliament member from the left-wing ERC Catalan party, said of both the Socialists’ and Podemos’ attitude in the talks.
“What do they think would happen with new elections on Nov. 10? Do they want Abascal as defence minister?,” he said, referring to far-right Vox leader Santiago Abascal.
The mood has changed several times over the past days, with the Socialists and Podemos seeming at times very near to a deal, only to say they were close to breaking off their negotiations soon after.
On Thursday the two parties seemed more divided than ever, with each side making bitter comments about the other in morning radio shows following an evening of leaks and angry criticism.
Podemos negotiator Pablo Echenique told laSexta TV that there was still time for the Socialists to change their mind and that his party had not yet decided how they would vote.
Sanchez lost Tuesday’s vote with 170 votes against 124 and 52 abstentions after Podemos abstained and several regional separatist parties voted against him.
Negotiations stalled over the question of what role Podemos would play in a coalition government, with Socialists accusing the party of wanting too much power.
Senior Podemos lawmaker Ione Belarra told RNE radio that there would be time to negotiate further until September.
Formed in 2014, anti-austerity Podemos previously backed Sanchez to rule in minority after the Socialist leader came to power when the previous centre-right government was ousted last year. They are now seeking to enter into government.