Spanish king to meet party leaders in bid to end political deadlock
Spain is close to ending 10 months of political deadlock as King Felipe VI began talks with party leaders which are expected to end with him asking conservative acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy to try to form a government.
Mr Rajoy has all but secured the position after the rival Socialist party voted to end its stance of rejecting his bid and abstain in a parliamentary vote expected this week.
Two inconclusive elections since last December have left Mr Rajoy in charge of a caretaker government. His Popular Party won both elections, but lacks a majority in the Spanish parliament and needs outside backing to form a minority government.
King Felipe will conclude the meetings on Tuesday with Mr Rajoy and will then select a candidate to face two parliamentary confidence votes later in the week.
Mr Rajoy is unlikely to achieve the necessary absolute majority of votes in the 350-seat chamber in the first round and will have to wait for a second vote, in which he will only need more deputies in favour than against.
Barring a major upset, he should be elected premier over the weekend.
Mr Rajoy welcomed the Socialists' decision and said that "if the political will is there, we could have a great future ahead for Spain".
As it stands, Mr Rajoy has the support of 170 MPs - 137 of them from his own party.
The Socialists, who have 85 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 remains bitterly divided over the abstention issue and some regional leaders are threatening to ignore Sunday's decision and vote against Mr Rajoy, which could lead to a split within the party.