Spain's King Felipe VI has decided that none of the country's political parties has enough support to form a government, setting the stage for an unprecedented repeat election in June, six months after voters ended the nation's traditional two-party system.
Felipe announced his decision in a statement after spending two days meeting with party leaders - including those in charge of the conservative Popular Party, the centre-left Socialists, the far-left Podemos party and the business-friendly Ciudadanos party.
The king's decision means that no party will be able to cobble together a minority or coalition government that would assume control of the 350-member lower house of Parliament by May 2, triggering a new election for June 26.
Spain has been politically paralysed since its national election on December 20 that saw the entry of Podemos and Ciudadanos as strong number three and number four parties following decades of alternating rule between the Popular Party and the Socialists.
The upstarts were voted in by Spaniards angry about years of high unemployment, seemingly endless corruption cases affecting the Popular Party and the Socialists plus unpopular austerity cuts hitting cherished national healthcare and public education.
Polls suggest a repeat election - a first for Spain since democracy was restored in 1978 - is unlikely to break the stalemate and could mean a political impasse stretching into the summer, possibly ending with yet another election.
Spain has never had a coalition government at the national level.
The Socialists rejected Mariano Rajoy's proposal for a grand coalition as has happened in many other European countries.