MADRID (Reuters) - A majority of Spaniards favor a coalition government led by the Socialist party PSOE and market-friendly newcomer Ciudadanos, according to a poll published by El Pais newspaper on Sunday as Spain's political deadlock continues.
Spain has yet to form a government seven weeks after an inconclusive Dec. 20 election in which no party won enough votes to govern. Newer parties, particularly the anti-austerity Podemos and the liberal Ciudadanos, grabbed votes from mainstream rivals.
A coalition led by the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and Ciudadanos is supported by 51 percent of Spaniards according to the poll of 1,000 people, carried out shortly after Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez was given a mandate by the king on Tuesday to try to form a government.
All other possible coalitions received an approval rating of less than 50 percent, the survey showed.
The Socialists started talks to form a coalition on Wednesday, a task seen as impossible unless several political parties drop some conditions.
Sanchez was formally nominated to try to replace the center-right People's Party (PP), which won most votes in the election but acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy deferred a parliamentary confidence vote on a new government as he lacked the support to win it.
Given the fragmentation of parliament, the Socialists would need the backing of at least three parties to achieve a simple majority of seats while several others would have to abstain.
Sanchez, who has said he needs at least a month before seeking a confidence vote in parliament, has appointed a six-strong team to handle the negotiations.
The failure to reach a coalition so far raises the prospect of a new round of elections later this year. However, a new election would likely deliver the same political deadlock.
Sunday's survey, carried out by pollsters Metroscopia, showed the four political parties - PP, PSOE, Ciudadanos and Podemos - running very close in approval ratings.
(Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Clelia Oziel)