Pedro Sanchez made the declaration to reporters after meeting with Rajoy, who is trying to negotiate a way for him and his center-right Popular Party to remain in power after it won the most votes in a national election Sunday but fell far short of a parliamentary majority.
Socialist party official Cesar Luena said Rajoy’s Popular Party, which won the most votes, should have the first crack at forming a government but ruled out supporting Rajoy, eliminating the possibility of an unprecedented coalition between the two parties which have dominated Spanish politics for decades.
The Socialists won 90 seats, their worst result ever, behind the PP with 123 seats. The far-left Podemos party gained 69 seats for third place, making it a possible kingmaker, while the centrist, business-friendly Ciudadanos party got an influential 40.
Rajoy in January faces a parliamentary vote on whether he can reassume his position as the leader of the government.
“Spain needs a government that has the support of parliament”, he said. Governments in Greece and Portugal that backed austerity were both thrown out of office in 2015.
“This result will… likely usher in weeks of political uncertainty, as the various parties try to hammer out a working arrangement in a country that has a limited history of multi-party government”, said Eurasia Group analyst Federico Santi.
And the Socialist Party (PSOE) has already said it will not back a Rajoy-led cabinet. If the candidate is not immediately successful, Parliament has two months to elect a prime minister or call a new election.
But unemployment remains stubbornly high at more than 21 percent, and millions of Spaniards became fed up with austerity-sparked inequality as well as repeated corruption scandals – one of the contributing factors of the meteoric rise of Podemos.
A general election in Spain has left no political party with a clear majority and thrown the country’s political system into disarray.