Spain's Podemos rules out help for PM Rajoy to govern

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MADRID (AP) — The leader of Spain's leftist Podemos party told Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy he won't offer any support for a new government formed by Rajoy's party, which won the most votes in the Dec. 20 national election but failed to get a parliamentary majority.

Pablo Iglesias said after meeting with Rajoy that his party won't agree to become part of a coalition led by Rajoy's Popular Party and would not indirectly support Rajoy by abstaining during a parliamentary leadership vote.

Rajoy then met with Albert Rivera of the business-friendly Ciudadanos party as part of his attempt to win support for the Popular Party's effort to govern as a minority party or in a coalition.

Rajoy's options are limited and the main opposition Socialist Party has already ruled out helping him. Spain has never had a "grand coalition" with power shared by the Popular and Socialist parties.

Rivera reiterated Ciudadanos' position that it won't support Rajoy or his party but would abstain in a leadership vote which would benefit Rajoy in forming a minority government if he can get other parties to follow suit.

Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez on Monday said his party would talk with others to try to form a government if Rajoy and the Popular Party fail.

But Sanchez said the Socialists would not team up with Podemos unless it drops a demand to allow the northeastern region of Catalonia to hold a secession referendum.

The Popular Party won 123 seats in the 350-member lower house of parliament — down from the 186 it got in 2011.

The Socialists won 90 seats, followed by Podemos and allies with 69 and Ciudadanos with 40.

Spain's King Felipe VI next month will hold talks with the leaders of each party that won seats in Parliament and nominate one for government.

But the nominated party leader must then win the leadership vote of confidence in Parliament to take office. If there is still deadlock after two months, the monarch would call a new election.

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