Spain's king tasked acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Thursday with the delicate task of forming a government and unblocking seven months of political paralysis after a second round of inconclusive elections.
Rajoy told reporters King Felipe VI had asked him if he would attempt to form a government, adding he had "accepted this assignment" and would work to get the support he needs -- a challenge as most other parties have announced they will not back him.
The country has been without a fully-functioning government for seven months at a sensitive time from an economic and political standpoint, just as it needs to take urgent steps to reduce its deficit or address a growing separatist movement in its Catalonia region.
The blockage started after elections on December 20 failed to give any party an absolute parliamentary majority, as upstart groupings Ciudadanos and Podemos shook up Spain's long-established two-party system.
Fed up with years of crisis and strict austerity policies, as well as repeated corruption scandals, millions of Spaniards tasked the two upstarts to revitalise the country.
But efforts to forge a coalition were unsuccessful as rival parties were unable to overcome their differences, prompting repeat elections in June with a similar result.
Rajoy's Popular Party (PP), in power since 2011, won the June 26 vote with 137 seats out of 350.
Although its victory margin was wider than in the December polls, the conservative party still failed to achieve an absolute majority.
After the last elections, Rajoy had relinquished the task of forming a government due to lack of support, forcing the king to nominate runner-up Socialist party chief Pedro Sanchez instead.
But he too failed to garner enough support as far-left Podemos -- which came third -- refused to back him, prompting the repeat elections.
This time round, Rajoy faces a similarly difficult task.
He needs to get enough support from other parties to push a coalition or minority government through a parliamentary vote of confidence -- be it with ballots in favour or abstentions.
But Sanchez has already said that his party -- which with 85 seats has the power to block the PP -- will not back him, as have Podemos and Ciudadanos.
Ciudadanos chief Albert Rivera has said his party may abstain in a vote of confidence, although he insists he wants a government without Rajoy.
"Everyone is repeating the same word: no, no, no and no," Rivera told reporters earlier Thursday after meeting with the king.
But with its 32 seats, Ciudadanos's abstention will still not be enough for the PP to get the majority it needs in the vote.
Failure to come to an agreement would prompt a third round of elections -- a situation Rajoy said he would work to avoid.
"I will do all I can so that Spain gets a government, but it doesn't only depend on me," he said.