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Spain

Spain's Socialist PSOE votes to abstain in prime minister confidence vote

Spain's Socialist party has voted to abstain in a confidence vote, paving the way for a minority conservative government. The decision moves the country closer to its first fully functional government in nearly a year.

Leaders of Spain's center-left Socialist Party (PSOE) agreed on Sunday to abstain from a confidence vote in the conservative acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Senior members of the party voted 139 in favor of abstaining in the vote, with 96 voting against.

The decision to abstain would grant Rajoy a second term in office, albeit at the head of a minority government.

PSOE, who came second to the Rajoy's People's Party (PP) in two inconclusive elections last December and in June, have so far vetoed Rajoy's attempts to form a minority administration.

With less than two weeks to go until a deadline to form a government, the PSOE meeting was widely seen as critical in determining whether Spain would have its third general election in a year.

Rajoy's PP was the largest party in the December election and again in June, but won only 137 seats in the 350-seat assembly.

Opposition from upstart parties

Drama within PSOE earlier this month saw the resignation of its leader, Pedro Sanchez, who had been firmly opposed to allowing Rajoy to lead the government.

An interim executive, which took Sunday's decision, was called to lead the party.

That executive will now direct PSOE lawmakers in parliament to refrain from taking part in the confidence vote.

Rajoy's party now faces opposition not only from the Socialist Party but also two upstart parties - the far-left Unidos Podemos and centrist anti-corruption party Ciudadanos.

The success of those parties, a voter response to austerity measures in the aftermath of the global financial downturn, has meant neither of the two traditional parties was able form a majority.

rc/jlw (AFP, Reuters, EFE)