MADRID (AP) -- Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy met Wednesday with the leader of the main opposition party to launch complicated talks on forming a coalition or minority government after his party won the most votes in national elections but fell short of a parliamentary majority.
Rajoy hosted Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez at Spain's presidential palace after Sunday's election gave Rajoy's Popular Party 123 seats in the 350-member lower house of parliament, down from the 186 won in 2011.
The Socialists got 90 seats, followed by the far-left Podemos and allies with 69 and the business-friendly Ciudadanos with 40.
Spain has never had a "grand coalition" of the Socialist and Popular parties and analysts predict weeks or months of uncertainty before the country has a functioning government led by the Popular Party or the Socialist Party — or fresh elections in the spring if neither party succeeds.
Sanchez said after Sunday's election that it's up to the Popular Party to try to form a government because it got the most votes.
But a Socialist Party spokesman has said the Socialists would not abstain in a parliamentary confidence vote.
Abstention by the Socialists would allow a Rajoy-led minority government because Ciudadanos has already said it would abstain.
In a first parliamentary vote, the candidate must get more than 50 percent of the full 350 votes in order to form a government.
If he falls short, he must get more votes for him than against him in a second ballot 48 hours later. That's a lower bar allowing parties to abstain, letting a rival into power in return for concessions.
If there is still deadlock after two months, King Felipe VI calls a new election.