MADRID (AP) — Spain's conservative acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Tuesday he has accepted King Felipe VI's request to seek Parliament's approval to form a government and end the country's 10 months of political deadlock.
Rajoy is all but guaranteed to obtain that approval in the coming days following the rival Socialist party's decision to stop blocking his bid and to abstain in a second parliamentary vote.
Two inconclusive elections since December have left Rajoy running a caretaker government. His Popular Party won both elections, but lacks a parliamentary majority and needs outside support to form a minority government.
Rajoy spoke after the king wrapped up two days of talks with leaders from each party in an effort to end the impasse ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline. If no government is in place by that date, a third round of elections would have to be called.
Parliament Speaker Ana Pastor said the investiture session would start Wednesday. The timing would pave the way for a first vote on Thursday and a second and final one on Saturday.
Rajoy is unlikely to get the necessary absolute majority of votes in the 350-seat chamber in the first round. During a second vote, he would only need more deputies in favor than against. Barring a major upset, he should be elected premier over the weekend.
As it stands, Rajoy has the support of 170 lawmakers — 137 of them from his own party.
The Socialists, who have 84 deputies, voted for the abstention to avoid a potentially disastrous third election and more political uncertainty. The party, long one of the country's major political groups, suffered its worst-ever results in both the December and June elections.
It agreed to vote against Rajoy in the first vote, but abstain in a second round, thus letting him through.
But the Socialists remain bitterly divided over the abstention issue. Some regional leaders are threatening to rebel and vote against Rajoy, but this is unlikely to change the outcome.