MADRID (AP) — Lawmakers in Spain's Parliament were on Friday expected to reject for the second time in three days acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's bid to form a minority government, pushing the country closer to a third election in a year.
Rajoy was defeated in a first vote of confidence Wednesday by 180 votes to 170 and all signs indicate the vote tally will be the same in the second ballot Friday night.
Rajoy's conservative Popular Party has been running a caretaker government following inconclusive elections in December and again in June. The party won the most seats in both but lacks votes in Parliament to win the confidence vote and take power.
If he loses again Friday, Parliament will have two months to produce a government or fresh elections will be called, most likely on Christmas Day.
Rajoy, in office since 2011, needed an absolute majority in the first vote while a simple majority of more votes in favor than against will suffice Friday. But no party appears willing to change stance and once again he is likely to have only the support of his Popular Party's 137 lawmakers and 33 others from two smaller groups.
Pressure has mounted on the leading opposition Socialist party, which has 85 seats, to at least abstain and let a minority government be formed. But the Socialists argue they could never support a politician they blame for high unemployment, political corruption and severe cuts in national health care and education.
The last two national elections produced greatly fragmented parliaments with the rise of two new groups — the far-left Unidos Podemos alliance, which came in third, and the fourth-place, business-friendly Ciudadanos party. The development ended Spain's traditional two-party political system of the Popular Party and the Socialists. Spain has never had a coalition government and the country's political elite are struggling with the idea of negotiating deals.