Mariano Rajoy, Spain's acting prime minister, has turned down an offer by King Felipe VI to try to form a new government, forcing a new round of talks on resolving the country's political deadlock following December's inconclusive elections.
The leader of the conservative People's Party said on Friday that more time was needed for negotiations as he did not have the necessary backing to win a parliamentary confidence vote.
He added, however, that he would continue to seek support for his candidacy.
"I haven't given up on anything," Rajoy said after meeting with Felipe. "I didn't say 'no' to my investiture; I conveyed to him [the king] that I didn't have enough support yet."
READ MORE: Splintered Spanish vote heralds tough coalition talks
Rajoy's party won the most seats in the parliamentary election on December 20, but lost its absolute majority in the 350-seat legislature.
Rajoy needed the support of the Socialist Party to be elected for another term as prime minister, but its leader Pedro Sanchez chose not to support him.
The palace said the king will begin fresh talks with party leaders next Wednesday in a bid to find a candidate.
Voting against Rajoy
For weeks, Rajoy has sought to head a minority government with the support of the Socialists and the center-right newcomer, Ciudadanos, which got 40 seats. But the Socialists have said they intend to vote against him no matter what.
Earlier on Friday, Sanchez welcomed an offer by the left-wing Podemos group to form a coalition government.
READ MORE: Podemos or no podemos
Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said he wanted the Socialists, Podemos and the smaller United Left to build a "government of change", with cabinet positions allotted in accordance with the results of December's election. Iglesias suggested he could be deputy prime minister in a Sanchez-led government.
Rajoy's popularity has dropped over the past four years in government mainly because of party-linked corruption scandals, unpopular laws and austerity measures brought in to help get Spain out of a severe economic crisis.