MADRID (AP) — Deputies elected in Spain's second inconclusive elections last month took their seats in Parliament on Tuesday and started procedures to try to elect a prime minister and avoid another round of elections.
The conservative Popular Party won the June 26 vote with 137 seats and its leader, acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, is expected to be candidate designated by King Felipe VI to attempt to form government.
Rajoy's party fell short of a majority in the 350-seat parliament and would need support from other parties to win a vote of confidence. But no major party appears willing to back him.
In its first test of strength, the party managed to have its candidate for parliament speaker, Ana Pastor, elected Tuesday thanks to the outside support of the business-friendly Ciudadanos party, which finished fourth place with 32 seats in the June election.
Ciudadanos has so far said it is willing to abstain in a vote of confidence on Rajoy, in which he would need a majority of those voting, but will not vote for him.
Pastor will now liaise with the king who is expected to begin meeting party leaders next week prior to calling on one to try to form a government.
Following the December election, in which the Popular Party won the most seats, Rajoy renounced the opportunity to even try to form a government because he had no outside support. His party has said he will do the same this time if he does not secure enough backing for a minority government at least.
The leading opposition Socialist party led by Pedro Sanchez was second in the June election with 85 seats while the left-wing alliance, Unidos Podemos, was third with 71 seats.
Most parties agree Spain needs a solid government if it is to keep its surging economy on track and also face up to internal political challenges such as the push for independence by Catalonia, one of the country's most powerful regions.