Spain enters a week of votes and debates which will be vital in determining whether Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, who has been acting prime minister since an inconclusive election in late April, will be confirmed in the job.
Leaders of the main parties are at odds with each other in a country with no recent experience of coalition governments and an increasingly fragmented political landscape, meaning it may take many more weeks, and possibly a repeat election, to find a deal.
Here are the main dates and events to watch out for:
* JULY 18-19: DEAL WITH THE FAR-LEFT?
Both the Socialists and far-left Podemos have said they wanted a deal, so this would at first glance be the most logical scenario. But Sanchez and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias have very different views of what an agreement should look like.
Sanchez said talks were off after Iglesias called his latest proposal “idiotic”.
Podemos is expected to publish on Thursday evening the result of a consultation of party members, though a party source said that might be pushed to Friday. They were asked to decide between an all-out coalition deal or a looser pact, proposed by Sanchez, that would include just a few low-ranking Podemos-backed officials.
The first option would make it harder for Sanchez to become prime minister, unless he does a U-turn and allows Iglesias and other senior Podemos figures to have key cabinet positions.
* JULY 22-23: FIRST TIME LUCKY?
Sanchez and the leaders of parties from the far-left to the far-right will fight off for hours on Monday and Tuesday in a parliamentary debate ahead of the first investiture vote, scheduled for around 1800 (1600 GMT) on Tuesday.
Sanchez is very unlikely to win this first vote, which requires an absolute majority and would need not only the Socialists’ 123 lawmakers and Podemos’ 42 to vote for him but also many other small parties, to get at least 176 votes.
* JULY 25: SECOND CHANCE
Forty-eight hours after the first vote, lawmakers will cast ballots again. This time, all Sanchez requires is more “yes” than “no” votes. But that still will not be easy.
It will mostly depend on what Podemos does. If they vote for Sanchez, alongside Basque nationalists and a handful of lawmakers from smaller regions, which are largely guaranteed, it is in the bag for Sanchez.
Without Podemos, Sanchez would require a surprise abstention by a big party, possibly the conservative People’s Party (PP). It would be very unexpected at this stage but that has happened in the past.
* SEPTEMBER CATCH-UP SESSION?
That’s where the game of chicken gets even more tense. Podemos or other parties might well decide they want to make Sanchez sweat it out more and wait for another vote in September, but the Socialists have said it’s all off if he is not sworn in next week.
* NOVEMBER 10th: REPEAT ELECTION?
If no deal is reached, a repeat election would be held on November 10. If there is a deal and Sanchez is confirmed as prime minister, the question will be what he can achieve in power, considering how fragmented Spanish politics are.