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Dec. 12, 2019, 2:58 a.m. EST

Spain’s King Felipe invites Socialist leader to form a government

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By Associated Press

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez holds a news conference after an extraordinary cabinet meeting in Madrid, Spain, February 15, 2019.

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s King Felipe VI on Wednesday asked caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to try and form a government, even though the Socialist leader appeared short of political support.

Sánchez’s Socialist party collected most votes in last month’s general election and has 120 seats in parliament.

But that is shy of a majority in the 350-seat chamber, whose approval Sánchez needs to take office.

Sánchez is trying to negotiate the support of rival parties to end the deadlock. He has already cut a deal with the left-wing United We Can party, which has 35 seats, but needs more votes.

Under Spain’s Constitution, the monarch invites a political leader to form a government. Parliament Speaker Meritxell Batet said the monarch invited Sánchez after consulting with him and other party leaders over two days.

Sánchez has occupied the prime minister’s office and headed the Cabinet since June 2018, being in a caretaker role since snap elections last April and last month resulted in parliamentary stalemate.

November’s snap election was the fourth in four years in the European Union’s fifth-largest economy.

If no party is able to form a government, a fresh election could be held next year.

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