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Spanish king meets with political leaders in bid to end four-month deadlock

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 file photo, Spain's King Felipe VI walks with Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, left, during the annual Pascua Militar Epiphany ceremony at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain. Spain's king is meeting Monday and Tuesday with the country's political parties following four months of political paralysis in a last-ditch effort to install a government and avoid sending voters back to the ballot box. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 file photo, Spain's King Felipe VI walks with Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, left, during the annual Pascua Militar Epiphany ceremony at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain. Spain's king is meeting Monday and Tuesday with the country's political parties following four months of political paralysis in a last-ditch effort to install a government and avoid sending voters back to the ballot box. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza, File)  (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Spain's king began talks with political party leaders Monday in a final bid to break a four-month deadlock in finding a candidate capable of forming a government and avoiding a new election.

King Felipe VI first met with Pedro Quevedo of the small New Canarias group. He will finish the two days of meetings Tuesday when he holds talks with the leaders of the four most voted parties, ending with acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Spain's Dec. 20 election ended the country's traditional two-party system with strong showings for two new parties. But no party won a majority of seats in the 350-seat Parliament and since then none of them have been able to muster enough support to form a government.

By law, if no government is in place by May 2 the king will dissolve Parliament and another election will be held June 26.

Polls suggest new elections are unlikely to break the stalemate with no party forecast to obtain a majority. Thus, fresh elections could mean more months of political paralysis as parties again attempt to reach a deal.

Rajoy's conservative Popular Party came in first in the December vote with 123 seats but lost the majority it held since 2011. Rajoy later told the king he wasn't in a position to be a candidate for premier as he lacked sufficient outside support.

The king then called on Pedro Sanchez of the second-placed Socialists, with 90 seats, to try. Sanchez struck a deal with centrist newcomer Ciudadanos, which has 40 seats, but was unable to convince the new far-left Podemos party, which controls 69 seats, to join him or allow him to govern by abstaining from a confidence vote.

Sanchez lost two parliamentary confidence votes last month.

Rajoy insists his party should head a government and wants 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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