The Spanish parliament on Wednesday rejected Socialist party leader Pedro Sánchez´s candidacy to form a center-left government in the first of two votes that will end or prolong the country’s 10-week-old leadership impasse. The conservative Popular Party of incumbent Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the far-left Podemos party led the opposition to Mr. Sánchez, who lost the vote of confidence by a margin of 219 to 130. If Mr. Sánchez loses a second confidence vote on Friday Spain will face more weeks of bargaining among political parties represented in the parliament elected on Dec. 20 and the possibility of a new parliamentary election this summer.
Spain enjoyed stable government for a third of a century, with conservatives and Socialists taking turns in office, until December. Voters fed up with economic hardship and corruption scandals associated with both major parties gave strong support to two upstarts—Podemos and a centrist party, Ciudadanos—producing a fragmented parliament with no party close to a majority.
King Felipe VI, in his role as head of state, asked Mr. Sánchez last month to seek parliament’s backing to lead a government after Mr. Rajoy declined to try. Mr. Rajoy’s party finished first in the December election but lost its majority in the 350-seat parliament and has yet to find backing from other parties.