MADRID (AP) — Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's chances of forming a new government following seven months of deadlock were looking slim after other party leaders confirmed Thursday they would reject him in any parliamentary vote to elect a premier.
King Felipe VI met separately with leaders of three other leading parties in hopes of encouraging a deal, but the trio told reporters afterward they could not support Rajoy, leader of the largest Popular Party.
The king has overseen talks since Tuesday — his first since inconclusive June elections — in hopes of promoting a breakthrough that would allow Spain to avoid a third national vote in less than a year. Rajoy also failed to garner sufficient voter support in the initial December election, leaving his conservative party dependent on forming some kind of alliance with mostly left-wing opponents.
Felipe was scheduled to meet Rajoy, Spain's leader since 2011, later Thursday.
The monarch typically invites the leader of the largest party to form a government, but he can opt for another leader if one has a better chance of prevailing in a parliamentary vote.
Spain could face months more of caretaker government under Rajoy pending negotiations and a possible third election this fall. The Popular Party won 137 parliamentary seats in June, 39 short of a majority.
The leader of Spain's next government requires either a majority of parliamentary votes or, if unable to reach that threshold, more votes cast in favor than against in a second vote. As the situation stands, Rajoy would lose in both scenarios, because opposition parties are committed to vote against him, not merely abstain. A minority government could be formed if other parties agree to abstain, rather than vote actively against the proposed prime minister.
Alberto Rivera, leader of the centrist Ciudadanos party that finished in fourth place, suggests Rajoy should step aside for a new Popular Party leader to try to form a coalition.
The third-place Unidos Podemos seeks a left-wing government led by the second-place Socialists. But Socialist chief Pedro Sanchez says Rajoy must exhaust all his negotiating options first.