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Spain's Socialist leader resigns, opening door for end of deadlock

Spain's Socialist Party (PSOE) leader Pedro Sanchez attends an investiture debate at parliament in Madrid, Spain, March 2, 2016.
Andrea Comas | Reuters

The leader of Spain's Socialist party, Pedro Sanchez, resigned on Saturday after losing a party assembly vote, a step which could pave the way for the formation of a new government and end a nine-month political deadlock.

Sanchez has led a long stand-off with acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative People's Party (PP), which won the most votes but fell short of a majority in two inconclusive elections, and the dispute has frustrated attempts to form a government.

The party's members had met on Saturday to decide whether to open up a leadership race in October, as proposed by Sanchez, or oust him, after the Socialist leadership tore itself in two this week.

"I have always believed that the socialist party had to provide an alternative, unfortunately it has not been possible... I offer my resignation. It has been an honour," Sanchez told fellow party members after losing the vote, according to a source from his entourage.

By ousting Sanchez, who has presided over a slump in the party's support, the Socialists rebels hope to find ways to avoid another election, including a potential abstention in a confidence vote on allowing Rajoy a second term.

If no government is formed before the end of October, a third election will be called in December.