SOCIALIST leader Pedro Sánchez has been formally invited by the King to create a new national government.
The PSOE head has accepted the challenge, but asked for another month to negotiate with other parties.
“It's reasonable enough to ask for the prudent amount of time to engage in these talks,” admitted Parliamentary spokesman Patxi López, also PSOE.
He said the King had called Sánchez (pictured) before the meeting to tell him he was going to invite him to form a government.
The next hurdle will be to try to gain sufficient support from other parties to create a cabinet.
Left-wing independents Podemos, with 69 seats, is now the third-largest political power, and has said it is willing to negotiate with the PSOE but urged Sánchez to 'get on with it'.
However, Podemos is dead against any type of coalition with liberal independents Ciudadanos, led by Albert Rivera, saying their policies are 'too incompatible'.
Ciudadanos has also agreed to negotiate with the socialists, and Rivera says he is willing to be flexible and reconsider his red lines – but not any that many involve a division of Spain, referring to Catalunya's determination to secede from the mother country.
The clock is now ticking, since if a government cannot be formed in time, Spain will be forced into a second election, leaving it ungoverned until at least August and rendering 2016 a lost year in political terms.
Sánchez responded to Felipe VI's nomination with: “Thank you, Sir; thank you, Your Majesty; I'm very grateful, and I accept.”
Acting president Mariano Rajoy (PP) met with the Monarch first as part of the second round of interviews with party leaders.
“The King has not invited me to form a government a second time, and I think that's fair enough,” admitted Rajoy, who rejected the nomination the first time round on the grounds he 'did not yet have sufficient support' from other parties – crucial to allowing him to continue in the president's seat, given that the PP, although the outright winners of the elections, is way short of the 176-seat majority needed to govern.
But Rajoy said 'under no circumstances' would he accept a government formed from the socialists and Ciudadanos – despite having earlier attempted to form a coalition with both, and been given a flat 'no' in the case of the PSOE.
Rajoy continues to insist that the only solution would be a left-right mega-coalition of the PP and PSOE with the support of Ciudadanos, and refuses to admit this would not be politically possible.
Even though Sánchez has twice declined to create such a coalition, Rajoy insists the PSOE leader has 'refused to negotiate' and still seems to think he can be persuaded to do so.
King Felipe, however, did not seem convinced that the merger – which would give the resulting government an overwhelming 250 seats out of 350 – would ever come off.
“Whatever the King's decision is, I will respect it,” Rajoy said before the meeting.
But he stated that a 'second possibility' of a government, between the PSOE and independent parties such as Podemos and Ciudadanos, would 'not be good for Spain'.
Rajoy says he would never support or vote in favour of any proposed cabinet which he was not president of, and is not willing to step aside to allow the PP to be led by anyone else.