MADRID (AP) — The Spanish Parliament wrapped up debate Thursday before holding a first confidence vote to allow conservative leader Mariano Rajoy to form a minority government and end a 10-month political impasse.
Acting Prime Minister Rajoy, head of the Popular party, lacks the support to win the absolute majority of votes in the 350-seat chamber in the first round. He will have to wait until a second vote on Saturday, when the promised abstention by the leading opposition Socialist party will likely see him through.
Spain has been in an unprecedented state of political limbo after two inconclusive elections since December. Rajoy's party won the most seats both times, but fell short of a majority and could not reach agreement with other parties to form a coalition government.
Socialist spokesman Antonio Hernando said the party would vote no in the first round to show it rejected Rajoy's policies. Hernando said the party, which has 84 deputies, agreed to abstain in the second vote solely to avoid making Spaniards face a third election. His party suffered its worst-ever results in the past two elections.
Rajoy defended his candidacy on Thursday, saying his party had won both elections and deserved to govern.
"Spain can't go on any longer without a fully-functioning government," he said.
Rajoy has the support of 170 lawmakers — 137 of them from his own party — leaving him six seats short of the 176 seats needed for a parliamentary majority.
A government must be in place by Monday or else a third election will have to be called.