Spain's king asks Socialist leader to try and form government
Spain's king on Tuesday asked Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez to try to form a government following an inconclusive December election in which the country's conservative Popular Party came in first but failed in more than a month of efforts to drum up enough support for a coalition or a minority government.
King Felipe VI made the decision after meeting with Mr Sanchez and with acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who heads the Popular Party, parliamentary speaker Patxi Lopez told reporters.
Mr Sanchez now faces the difficult task of trying to negotiate with two new upstart parties who made big inroads with voters upset with austerity, high unemployment and official corruption.
The election smashed Spain's traditional two-party system in which the Popular Party and the Socialists have alternated running Spain for decades.
The Popular Party won the most votes this time but got only 123 seats in the 350-member lower house of parliament, losing the absolute majority it held since 2011.
The far-left Podemos came in third in the December 20 election and the business-friendly Ciudadanos came in fourth - robbing votes and seats from Socialists and the Popular Party.
Mr Rajoy had proposed forming a so-called grand coalition with the Socialists and Ciudadanos, but Mr Sanchez ruled out any deal with the Popular Party and Mr Rajoy.
Negotiating a governing deal will not be easy for Mr Sanchez. Among the biggest hurdles he faces is a pledge by Podemos to allow voters in the north eastern Catalonia region to hold a referendum on seceding from Spain.
The Socialists are strongly opposed to permitting separatists from holding a secession referendum.