MADRID (AP) — Spain's king began meeting party leaders on Tuesday with the aim of selecting one to form a government and avoid a third election, but no candidate appears to have enough parliamentary backing to do so.
King Felipe VI met with Pedro Quevedo of the small New Canarias group. He finishes the meetings Thursday when he meets with the leaders of the four most popular parties, ending with acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
The talks follow Spain's inconclusive election June 26, the second in seven months.
Quevedo ruled out using his party's one vote to support Rajoy. Quevedo believes Rajoy is not making a serious bid for outside support, but rather is maneuvering for a third round of elections in the hope of improving his seat count.
Rajoy's conservative Popular Party won most seats in both elections — 137 in the latest one and 39 seats short of a parliament majority.
Traditionally, the monarch invites the election winner to form a government, but he can opt for other leaders if they can deliver a more stable option.
Following the December vote, Rajoy renounced the opportunity to try to form a government because he lacked support. His party says he will do the same this time if he does not secure enough backing.
The opposition Socialist party was second in the June election with 85 seats while the left-wing alliance, Unidos Podemos, was third with 71 seats.
The nominated party leader must win a vote of confidence to take office. If the issue is not resolved within two months of this first vote, a new election is called.
Most parties agree Spain needs a strong government if it is to keep its recovering economy on track and also face up to internal challenges such as Catalonia's push for independence.