0657 GMT January 18, 2020
A stand-off between the Socialists, headed by Pedro Sanchez, and the center-right People's Party (PP) – which won the most votes but well short of a majority in two inconclusive national elections – has so far hampered attempts to form a government.
But growing dissent within the Socialists over whether the party should keep blocking acting PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's bid for a second term could bring the political deadlock to a head and help to ease in a new administration.
On Wednesday, former socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, one of the party's most influential figures, called for Sanchez to resign and pave the way for a potential abstention in a confidence vote to let Rajoy stay in power, Reuters reported.
Gonzalez said he felt "betrayed" by Sanchez because he had told him in a private conversation in June he would abstain in such a vote.
Yet the Socialists ended up blocking Rajoy, setting the clock ticking on Spain's third national election in a year as parties must now form a government by an Oct. 31 deadline.
"I spoke to Pedro Sanchez on June 29 and he told me he would be in the opposition and he would not try to form an alternative government and that he would vote against (Rajoy) in a first vote but would abstain in a second vote so that a government can be formed," Gonzalez told Cadena Ser radio.
Sanchez has called for a leadership election next month to try to reinforce his position as he steadfastly opposes another PP government.
One source familiar with the matter said a group of senior Socialist members were now mulling a mass resignation in order to force Sanchez out before a party meeting on Oct. 1, and block his attempts to open up a leadership race which he is seen winning with support from the grassroots.
This scenario would usher in a form of caretaker administration for the party, which could make it easier for the Socialists to abstain in a confidence vote and allow Rajoy to govern.
It is not clear if the rebelling group of lawmakers will be able to gather enough support to oust Sanchez in time.
Sanchez's number two Cesar Luena told Cope radio he was convinced the potential coup would not succeed.
"There shouldn't be any kind of trick to prevent socialist sympathizers from expressing their opinion," Luena said.