ACTING president Mariano Rajoy has rejected King Felipe VI's official proposal for the PP leader to be first to attempt to create a government.
With a hung election result – the most divided in Spain's democratic history – Felipe VI has staged a series of formal meetings with the lead candidates of all parties which won at least one seat in Parliament through the general elections in December.
Normally, at this stage, he would merely be greeting and formally approving the head of the winning party as new – or continuing – president of the country.
But this time, the Monarch's role in Spain's political future is far more centre stage – in fact, the Royal Head of State has not been such an influential figure at election time since Felipe VI's father, the abdicated King Juan Carlos I, helped Spain through the transition to democracy in 1975 along with the first president of the newly dictatorship-free country, Adolfo Suárez.
The winning candidate would normally be officially nominated for presidency and invited by the King to form a government, and as Mariano Rajoy has been president until now and his party has gained the most seats – a total of 119 after four left to join the Grupo Mixto, or 'unaffiliated politicians' bench – Felipe VI formally asked Rajoy to stand for the in-house presidential voting.
But Rajoy has refused to do so, saying he does not have sufficient support from other parties.
He needs at least a simple majority to vote for him to be invested as president, meaning persuading those who do not wish to do so to abstain rather than voting against.
None of the other parties are prepared to vote for him, and his direct rivals – the socialists – are hoping to form a government of their own with the required 176-seat majority to stop the PP getting back in office.
Rajoy concludes that he will not win a confidence vote from enough MPs to give him the presidency for another four years.
This is a different situation to his predecessor - socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero also won the 2008 elections without a majority, but a confidence vote in Parliament meant he was able to govern for a second term.
Now King Felipe's nomination of Rajoy has been turned down, the Monarch will start another round of meetings with party leaders this week.
Speculation is rife that now Rajoy has rejected the nomination, Felipe VI may ask PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez to try to form a new government instead.
Initially, Rajoy said he would stand for the in-house voting round, but after Sánchez said he was willing to consider ideas presented by left-wing independent party Podemos – the third-largest political power with 69 seats to the PSOE's 89 – to enable the two parties to form a coalition, the PP leader has changed his mind.
Podemos' leader, Pablo Iglesias revealed he had told King Felipe he was seeking to create a 'government of change' with the PSOE and United Left (Izquierda Unida, or IU), which has two seats in Parliament, and that he was looking to become deputy president.
Iglesias also hopes that if Podemos does manage to enter in government, his party members would be given the jobs of ministers for economy, social welfare, defence and interior.
Photograph by the Royal Household of His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain