Another election could bring violence onto the streets of Northern Ireland, an Ulster Unionist MLA has warned.
Doug Beattie said direct rule could give the parties room to find agreement on restoring devolution.
Speaking on Stephen Nolan's Radio Ulster show, Mr Beattie warned another election could be divisive and violent.
He said the last election gave the parties a mandate and told them to set up a power-sharing Executive.
"And it is a failure of leadership if that is not set up", the former soldier said.
"I do fear an election. It will be incredibly sectarian, because we will just go to a headcount.
"We are so entrenched now and we are getting so divided and the language is getting so much more vile than it was the last time around."
Mr Beattie said that while it was true his party could lose more seats in the event of another poll, he did not fear "an election for an election's sake".
"I fear an election for what it will do to Northern Ireland - it will make us a more sectarian society, which is not a good thing," he said.
"And we all know that sectarian elections can become more violent. As people get entrenched in their positions when things become sectarian headcounts there is a tendency for a vacuum and people come out on the streets to fill that vacuum.
"I am genuinely fearful of that."
"I am giving an opinion and that's all it is - one man's opinion.
"If you listen to the language we are heading for a headcount election, the two sides are getting further and further apart and the language will get harder and harder."
He said no one was "sleepwalking" into an election but that they could be "sleepwalking into direct rule."
"And that could give us room for an agreement", he added.
"The talks are flat, they are directionless, there is no engine room, no narrative and we do need that space to find agreement."