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Spanish PM turns down chance to form new government

Spain's incumbent prime minister Mariano Rajoy has turned down a petition by King Felipe VI to try to form a new government following last month's inconclusive elections.

The Royal Palace made the announcement shortly after the monarch met with Mr Rajoy to wrap up a week of talks with party leaders before nominating a candidate.

In a statement, the palace said the king will begin fresh talks with party leaders next Wednesday in a bid to find another candidate.

Mr Rajoy's Popular Party won most seats - 123 - in the December 20 election but failed to garner a majority in the 350-seat lower house of parliament.

The king will now most likely call on opposition Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez to try to from a government. The Socialists came second in the election with 90 seats and appear to have more chance of mustering support from other groups to form a coalition.

The nominated candidate must win a vote of confidence in parliament. If no party leader manages to win that parliamentary support within two months of the first vote, fresh elections must be called.

No group had expressed any intention of voting for Mr Rajoy, which made parliamentary approval for him highly unlikely.

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