Spain seemed headed for reelections on Tuesday when a final round of talks between King Felipe VI and party leaders failed to produce a breakthrough.
Polls suggest that new elections, which are likely to be held on June 26, would not significantly change the composition of parliament, potentially setting the country up for yet another prolonged period of uncertainty.
Spain has been without a proper government since December when Mariano Rajoy’s conservatives lost their majority but their traditional rivals, the Socialists, also fell short.
Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez proposed a coalition with the reformist Ciudadanos but it failed to win the support of a majority in parliament. The anti-establishment Podemos movement, which holds the balance of power, rejected the deal.
The Socialists, for their part, balked at drawing Podemos into a formal coalition, fearing that the young party’s far-left policy proposals, from nationalizing major industries to restructuring Spain’s debt, would discredit them with moderate voters in the next election.
Rajoy’s strategy from the start has been to wait Sánchez out. He rejected a mandate from the king in January, when it became apparent that none of the other parties would endorse him for a second term. His hope now is to either win back a majority of his own or at least enough seats to be able to form a center-right pact with the Ciudadanos.
Spain can ill afford to be without a government much longer.
Rajoy’s caretaker administration admitted earlier this month that the 2015 deficit had come in a full percentage point over its target. To meet the 2016 goal of a 2.8-percent shortfall, the next government would have to cut an additional €25 billion in spending.