Bulgaria's president warned Tuesday the country was in a "political, social, economic and parliamentary crisis" as deputies met for the first time since inconclusive elections on May 12 in a bid to break the deadlock.
Rosen Plevneliev urged lawmakers "not to deepen the crises but resolve them one by one" after both the outgoing conservatives and opposition socialists fell short of a governing majority.
He said politicians must quickly form a government to resolve the stalemate and respond to the need for growth and jobs in Europe's poorest country.
The outgoing GERB party of former premier Boyko Borisov won 97 seats in the 240-seat parliament, a far cry from its previous 117 lawmakers, three months after the former bodyguard was ousted by massive and sometimes violent street rallies.
The opposition Socialists (BSP) came second with 84 seats, followed by the Turkish minority party MRF with 36 seats and the ultra nationalist Ataka party with 23.
Analysts said GERB's failure to secure a majority and the party's political isolation meant they had no chance of forming a government.
This would pass the baton to the Socialists, which have vowed to seek broad support for an anti-crisis technocrat government led by economist Plamen Oresharski.
If the Socialists also fail, Plevneliev will pick either the MRF and Ataka for a third and last effort before dissolving parliament and calling a new snap vote.
New elections would deepen the political crisis however, analysts warned, and could result in new tensions on the street.
Borisov has vowed to challenge the election results, citing gross violations on the eve of the vote he said undermined support for his party.
GERB has until Wednesday to garner the necessary signatures from 48 parliamentarians and table its official complaint with the constitutional court -- the only institution that can cancel election results.