MADRID (AP) – The Spanish Parliament began an investiture debate on Wednesday that will likely result in the conservative Popular Party taking power later this week, ending 10 months of political deadlock during which a caretaker government has run the country.
Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy opened the debate, a day before a first confidence vote. Rajoy is unlikely to get the necessary absolute majority of votes in the 350-seat chamber in the first round, but a promise by the leading opposition Socialist party to abstain in a second round of voting scheduled for Saturday should allow him to head a minority government.
"Spain urgently needs a government," Rajoy told lawmakers. "Spain cannot afford more delays and more uncertainty."
"We have reasons to hope that, under these new circumstances, we can soon have a government in place," he said. He said he would seek agreements with other parties to ensure a stable, lasting administration.
Spain has been in an unprecedented state of political limbo after two inconclusive elections since last December. In both cases Rajoy's party won most seats but fell short of a majority and could not reach agreement with other parties to form a coalition.
Rajoy has the support of 170 lawmakers — 137 of them from his own party — leaving him six seats short of the 176 seats needed for a parliamentary majority.
Political leaders are trying to find a solution before an Oct. 31 deadline, after which a third election will have to be called.
The Socialists, who have 84 lawmakers, decided to abstain from the confidence vote in order to avoid facing another election in which they could lose heavily. The party, long one of the country's major political groups, suffered its worst-ever results in both the December and June elections.
Even so, the Socialists are deeply divided over the abstention issue. Some regional leaders are threatening to rebel and vote against Rajoy, but that is unlikely to change the outcome.