SPAIN could be facing its fourth General Election in as many years after its parliament yesterday rejected another bid by Socialist (PSOE) leader Pedro Sanchez to be confirmed as prime minister.

The rejection came after acting prime minister Sanchez could not reach agreement with the far-left, anti-austerity Podemos (United We Can), which had sought a greater role than had been offered in a potential coalition government.

READ MORE: Court criticises Spanish national police for indyref violence

“I must say that between parties of the left, the forming of a government should have been guaranteed from the first day,” Sanchez said. “A deal wasn’t possible. I want to be Spain’s prime minister, but not at any cost.

“I lament the historic opportunity that is slipping away.”

The PSOE won the most seats in the April election but fell short of a majority and needed support from Podemos to win the vote to reinstall him.

Sanchez criticised the way Podemos and its leader Pablo Iglesias had conducted the negotiations.

He did not say what his next step would be, but, in theory, he has until September 23 to decide whether or not to try again.

The PSOE said earlier this month it would give up trying to install him if he failed to secure confirmation yesterday.

If Sanchez decides against a further bid or fails for a third time, a snap election will be held in November – for the second time in seven months.

Even if Podemos can be brought on board, he would still require the help of other – including pro-Catalan independence – parties to win.

The stumbling block for negotiations was the role Podemos would play in a coalition government – Spain’s first in the modern era.

Three months of frequently acrimonious talks suggested that, even if there was a workable coalition, it could be vulnerable to similar divisions.

Sanchez lost yesterday’s vote by a wide margin, receiving only the support of his own 123 Socialist MPs and one from Cantabria – 67 MPs abstained and 155 voted against him.

Iglesias made a last-gasp offer to trade his support in exchange for control of policies to fight unemployment, repeal some labour laws and introduce wage reforms.

This was met by groans from Socialist members who considered the offer as coming far too late. In the end, the 42 Podemos MPs abstained.

In 2016, Podemos also held the key to Sanchez’s chances of becoming prime minister following an inconclusive election, but sank his candidacy and forced a new election that led to conservative Mariano Rajoy retaining power.

Sanchez moved into the Moncloa Palace a year ago and kept the government afloat until his spending bill was killed off in February.

On Tuesday, he failed on his first chance to get parliamentary support, falling well short of an absolute majority. Yesterday he failed to win a simple majority of votes.

However, the blame game between the PSOE and their rivals started even before the vote, when the session descended into bickering over which ministries each party would control.

Iglesias asked Sanchez: “Do you believe that you have dealt with us with the respect that a possible partner in government deserves?”

Under the Spanish constitution, King Felipe will call further talks with the leaders of the parties in the lower chamber and suggest a candidate who can try to forge a government.

Gabriel Rufian, a spokesperson for the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), said: “The only question is for how long, for how many months, how many years, will all the parties of the left regret this day?”