MADRID (AP) — Newly-elected lawmakers took their seats Wednesday in the first session of Spain's parliament following an inconclusive election Dec. 20 that has left the formation of the next

government still undecided.

Within days or weeks of the opening session, King Felipe VI will meet with party leaders to see who is in the best position to form a government.

The governing conservative Popular Party won 123 seats, but lacks a majority in the 350-member chamber. The leading opposition Socialists won 90 seats, followed by the far-left Podemos party and its allies with 69, and centrist Ciudadanos with 40. The remaining 28 seats went to six small parties.

It is the first time in nearly four decades of Spanish post-dictatorship democracy that parliament has been so fragmented, with at least four parties having a chance to take office.

Traditionally, the monarch invites the election winner to form a government, but he can opt for other party leaders if they can deliver a more stable option.

Parliament will elect a house speaker Wednesday who will later visit the king to begin the consultation process.

The nominated party leader must win a vote of confidence in parliament to take office. If the issue is not resolved with two months of this first vote, a new election is called.

So far, no candidate appears capable of garnering enough support.


Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party reiterated Wednesday his plea to other parties that agree on similar Spanish constitutional principles to support him in a minority government "that would count on great popular support." But so far the Socialists have refused to join forces, while Ciudadanos have only said they might abstain.

The Socialists, meanwhile, offer to lead a broad alliance of mostly non-conservative parties to take office. That would need Podemos' support, which is being strongly withheld.

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