Spanish Socialists will not support Mariano Rajoy as PM
The leader of Spain's opposition Socialists has said he will not support any effort by acting PM Mariano Rajoy to stay in his post via a coalition or minority government.
Pedro Sanchez made the declaration after meeting with Mr Rajoy, who is trying to negotiate a way for him and his centre-right Popular Party to remain in power after it won the most votes in a national election on Sunday but fell far short of a majority.
Mr Rajoy did not comment after the two met at the presidential palace. The splintered vote that marked the end of three decades of two-party domination in Spain gave his party 123 seats in the 350-member lower house of parliament, down from the 186 it won in 2011.
The Socialists got 90 seats, followed by the far-left Podemos and allies with 69 and the business-friendly Ciudadanos with 40.
Mr Sanchez reiterated that it is up to the Popular Party to first try to form a government because it got the most votes. He did not say whether the Socialists would support the Popular Party if Mr Rajoy steps down, but Spain has never had a "grand coalition" of its two main parties.
Analysts predict weeks or months of uncertainty before the country has a functioning government led by the Popular Party or the Socialist Party - or a new election in the spring if neither party succeeds.
In January, Mr Rajoy faces a parliamentary vote on whether he can reassume his position as the leader of the government. In the first vote, he would need more than 50% to form a government. If he falls short, he must get more votes for him than against him in a second ballot 48 hours later.
That is a lower bar allowing parties to abstain, letting a rival into power in return for concessions. Ciudadanos has already said it will abstain, but Mr Sanchez ruled that out for his Socialists.
If there is still a deadlock after two months, King Felipe VI will call a new election.