Spain king to meet with parties in last bid to snap deadlock

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MADRID (AP) — Spain's king will meet again with the country's political parties in a late bid to break a near four-month stalemate in finding a candidate capable of forming a government and avoiding a new election.

The palace said in a statement Tuesday that King Felipe VI would meet party representatives April 25-26.

The decision comes after Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez, chosen by the king as candidate following the inconclusive Dec. 20 election, failed in two parliamentary votes last month to muster sufficient support.

Subsequent negotiations involving the Socialists, their centrist ally Ciudadanos, and the far-left Podemos party to strike a deal have made little progress and there is nothing to indicate elections can be avoided.

A new government must be in place by May 2 or the king will dissolve parliament and another election will be held June 26.

The December election produced a totally fragmented parliament with no party winning a majority of seats in the 350-seat chamber.

The second-placed Socialists, with 90 seats, needs third-placed Podemos, which controls 69 seats, to support them. However, the far left group opposes any deal that includes Ciudadanos, which has 40 seats. Podemos also insists on allowing the powerful northeastern Catalonia to hold a secession referendum, a point all other major mainstream parties reject.

The conservative Popular Party came in first with 123 seats in the election but lost the majority it held since 2011. Party leader and acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy later told the king he wasn't in a position to be a candidate for premier as he lacked sufficient outside support.

Rajoy insists his party should head a government and has called for Sanchez to support an unprecedented coalition of the country's first and second parties. The Socialists, however, reject any pact with Rajoy.

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