King meets party chiefs as Spain's gov't impasse nears end

MADRID (AP) " Spain appeared close to ending 10 months of political deadlock Monday as King Felipe VI began talks with political party leaders before he is expected to call on conservative acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to try to form a government.

Rajoy has all but secured the position after the rival Socialist party voted Sunday 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 Rajoy in charge of a caretaker government. His Popular Party won both elections, but lacks a majority in Parliament and needs outside backing to form a minority government.

Felipe will finish the meetings Tuesday with Rajoy and will then select a candidate to face two parliamentary confidence votes later in the week.

Rajoy is unlikely to get 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 favor than against. Barring a major upset, he should be elected premier over the weekend.

Speaking Monday, 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, Rajoy has the support of 170 lawmakers " 137 of them from his own party.

The Socialists, who have 84 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.

The party was previously considered as having 85 seats but this included one from a supporting Canary Island party, which has now decided to stand alone and vote against Rajoy.

The Socialists remain bitterly divided over the abstention issue and some regional leaders are threatening to ignore Sunday's decision and vote against Rajoy, which could lead to a split within the party.

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This story has been corrected that the Socialists have 84 seats, not 85.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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