MADRID • The leader of Spain's Socialists yesterday offered to lead talks between parties to form a government in a bid to break political deadlock and avoid a new national election in the next few months.
Mr Pedro Sanchez made the announcement after a meeting with King Felipe, who was also scheduled to meet acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, wrapping up a second round of negotiations that started last week.
It is unclear which man the King will nominate to lead talks to form a new administration or if he will instead ask the parties to negotiate before he picks either.
Spain has been without a government since inconclusive parliamentary elections on Dec 20, and talks to resolve the situation have made little headway so far.
"The Socialist Party and myself have told the King that we are ready ... to take a step forward and try to form a government to end the stalemate of the Spanish democracy and its institutions," Mr Sanchez told a news conference.
He said he would open talks with all parties, including Mr Rajoy's People's Party (PP), if appointed by the King, although he would not actively seek the backing of parties that favour Catalonia's independence from Spain.
Mr Rajoy was nominated after a first round of talks last month because his conservative PP won the most votes in the elections.
But he deferred a parliamentary confidence vote on a new government because he lacked the support to win it, and the PP has been lobbying for Mr Sanchez to take the baton this time.
Having ruled out a coalition with the PP and with senior members of his party opposing a deal with anti-austerity party Podemos and regional parties, the Socialist leader's chances of success look just as slim.
The Socialists could potentially achieve a majority by teaming up with Podemos and other leftist and regional parties, but they have different views on fundamental issues such as whether to organise an independence referendum in Catalonia.
Meanwhile, Mr Rajoy's PP, which fell well short of a majority in December, would need the unlikely backing - or the abstention - of newcomer centrist party Ciudadanos and the Socialists in order to win a second term.