Socialists clear way for Rajoy to end Spain's 10-month political stalemate
The Socialist party has voted to stop blocking the conservative Popular Party from forming a minority government, setting the stage to end Spain's nearly 10-month political impasse.
Members of the Socialists' federal committee said they would abstain from voting against acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy during a confidence vote in Parliament.
The committee voted 139 to 96 in favour of the abstention, a decision that should prevent a third election.
Two inconclusive elections since last December have left Mr Rajoy in charge of a caretaker government. His Popular Party won both elections, but not enough seats to form a majority in Parliament.
He has the support of 170 lawmakers in the 350-seat national parliament - 137 of them from his own party - but he needs other parties' votes, or abstentions, to form a government.
He needs 11 abstentions from the socialists to reach the threshold.
Javier Fernandez took over as temporary Socialist leader following the resignation of Pedro Sanchez.
He said the party would "show its total rejection for Popular Party policies" by first voting no during the confidence vote, but would abstain on the second tally, allowing Mr Rajoy to govern.
Spain has been led for decades by either the conservatives or the socialists and has never had a coalition government.
The Socialist party remained bitterly divided on the issue. Supporters of the abstention claimed a third election could be disastrous for the party, which suffered its worst-ever results in June's poll.
Detractors of the abstention said the decision would further alienate the party's supporters. P rotesters defied the rain to gather outside its headquarters, saying they felt betrayed by the federal committee's decision.
Miquel Iceta, the leader of the party's Catalan faction, has said its seven deputies will vote against Mr Rajoy despite the committee's plans.
The newcomer leftist Podemos party has said it hopes to profit from the Socialists' surrender to become the leading opposition party.