Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has failed to secure enough parliamentary votes to form a new government and faces a second ballot in which his election is assured.

As expected, Mr. Zapatero fell short of the absolute majority required for confirmation Wednesday in the 350-seat lower house of parliament.  But he is assured of winning a second round Friday, when only a simple majority is needed for him to secure a second term.

The first round vote followed a parliamentary debate, which began Tuesday, in which Mr. Zapatero told lawmakers he will focus on strengthening Spain's economy and fighting terrorism during his second term.

Mr. Zapatero was addressing the lower house of parliament for the first time since the March ninth election, when his Socialist Party fell short of winning an absolute majority in parliament.

A total of 168 lawmakers voted in favor of the Socialist leader today, while 158 voted against him and 23 others abstained. One Socialist lawmaker was not present for the vote.

Spain's economy has been thriving for more than a decade, but is expected to slow this year.   Mr. Zapatero has promised a packet of measures, including increased government spending to help revive the economy. 

The prime minister's first term was marked by disagreements with center-right opposition Popular Party on how to deal with the armed Basque separatist group ETA.  

The group declared a ceasefire in March 2006, but resumed violence later that year after failing to win concessions on its efforts to create an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwestern France.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.