The proposal of the task comes just a week after right-wing opposition Alberto Núñez Feijóo failed in his bid to do so.
Spain’s King Felipe VI asked Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday to try to form a new coalition government following talks with political party leaders to determine which of them had the best chance of securing majority support in parliament.
Spain's equivalent of House speaker, Congress of Deputies President Francina Armengol, announced the decision after the king concluded his two days of talks and then summoned her.
Sánchez’s Socialist party finished second behind the conservative Popular Party in Spain’s 23 July election. The monarch first asked Popular Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo to try to form a government, but Feijóo failed to win sufficient parliamentary support last week.
“I have accepted the king’s petition,” Sánchez said during a Tuesday news conference in which he promised to work for a progressive government.
Sánchez, 51, has been Spain’s prime minister in a minority leftist coalition for the past five years and is the country’s acting leader until a new government is formed. He said Tuesday that he would consult all parties except the extreme-right Vox as he seeks to put together a governing majority.
Vox received the third-highest number of votes in the election, which produced a splintered parliament made up of 350 legislators from 11 parties, making the path to power difficult for any one of them.
Sánchez's initially plans to try to form a coalition with Sumar, a movement of small left-wing parties that finished fourth in the election. If no government is in place by Nov. 27, another national election would take place on Jan. 14.
Lawmakers rejected Feijóo’s second appeal for support Friday on a 177-172 vote. Sánchez, whose party holds 122 seats, hopes he can persuade those who voted against Feijóo to give him the 176 votes needed for a majority.
The Socialists showed that strategy could work when Armengol defeated the Popular Party's candidate for the Congress of Deputies' presidency 178-139 on Aug. 17.
To continue as prime minister, Sanchez needs support from two small parties that want independence for northeastern Spain's Catalonia region. In exchange, both parties have demanded a self-determination referendum for the region and an amnesty for possibly thousands of people who participated in a failed 2017 push for Catalonia's secession.
The Popular Party and ally Vox have vowed to fiercely contest any proposal for an amnesty or independence referendum.
Although Sánchez pardoned several high-level Catalan separatists who were convicted in the secession push, he has ruled out a referendum and avoids mentioning a broader amnesty. But he insists he wants to continue normalizing relations with Catalonia, where tensions have decreased enormously in recent years.
Sánchez’s outgoing minority coalition government delivered bold policies in such areas as women’s rights, labour issues and climate change.
Sánchez said the election results and the parliamentary rejection of Feijóo’s candidacy for prime minister showed a majority of people in Spain favour a more diverse government and reject the right wing’s conservative vision for the country.
“If Spaniards said anything on July 23, it is that one cannot preside over the government of the nation without understanding the political plurality of the parliament or the territorial diversity of the nation,” he said Tuesday.