Seeking to break a political impasse, Spain's King Felipe VI on Tuesday called on Alberto Nunez Feijoo to seek to form a new government, despite his conservative Popular Party not having a majority.
The PP garnered the most votes in an inconclusive election last month and the king called on Feijoo to try to form a government with the PP at the head of a coalition.
The Socialist president of parliament, Francina Armengol, told a news conference that the king had communicated "his decision to propose Alberto Nunez Feijoo as candidate to head the government."
But the outcome remains uncertain as the early elections on July 23 left neither Feijoo's conservatives nor outgoing Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez with a clear path to a majority.
Armengol said nonetheless she would be contacting Feijoo in the coming hours to set a date for a parliamentary investiture debate.
Both Sanchez and Feijoo had indicated after meeting earlier with the king that they would submit themselves to an investiture vote should the monarch designate them.
Earlier, Felipe, seeking to ascertain which party leader has the best chance of eventually putting together a coalition, also met Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party.
The PP won the most votes in the poll but it is not clear if it can secure the 176 votes in parliament required to obtain an absolute majority in the 350-seat chamber.
Should Feijoo fail, that would trigger a two-month countdown to determine if another majority can come together. Failing that the country will go back to the polls to try to break the political deadlock.
On the face of it, Feijoo will fall short as his PP has 137 parliamentary seats while potential allies Vox and two small regional parties only have 33 between them which, if pooled, would give a PP-led coalition only 172 votes, four short of the required majority.
Sanchez said he would accept Feijoo being designated to form a government -- while predicting his rival would be unable to put together a parliamentary majority.
The Socialist leader wants to return at the head of a "progressive" government of centre and radical left and insists he could garner more votes than Feijoo.