BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain said he would begin talks with other political parties on Thursday to try to form a government after failing to win a majority in last week's election.
His conservative People's Party (PP) won the most votes in Sunday's election and increased its lead since an inconclusive ballot in December, but Spain again could face a lengthy period of stalemate as parties haggle over a potential coalition.
Since the PP wound up 39 seats short of a parliamentary majority it must now gain the backing of either its longtime Socialist opponents, who came second, or that of fourth-placed liberal party Ciudadanos and several smaller groups.
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At the very least, Rajoy would need other leaders to agree to abstain in confidence votes to allow a minority government to function.
"From tomorrow, I will start to talk with the various political forces in order to see the willingness of each one to find a way out from this situation," Rajoy told a news conference after a European Union summit in Brussels.
So far, the Socialists have been divided over whether they should allow the PP to govern. Meanwhile, the leader of Ciudadanos has said he was willing to have talks with the PP but not to back a government headed by Rajoy.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Julien Toyer/Mark Heinrich)