Reuters International

Spanish acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (L) and Ciudadanos party leader Albert Rivera pose before the start of their meeting at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, Spain August 3, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera


MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's liberal Ciudadanos party said on Tuesday it was open to supporting a conservative-led administration if acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy agreed first to a package of political reforms, in a bid to resolve an eight-month government impasse.

After two inconclusive elections in December and June, Rajoy's People's Party (PP) is well short of a parliamentary majority despite winning the most votes, and has so far struggled to win backing from rivals to form a new government.

Even with support from Ciudadanos ("Citizens"), the fourth biggest party in the country, Rajoy would still be shy of the 176 seats he needs in the 350-strong lower house to form a stable government.

But an endorsement would strengthen the PP's hand in further talks with other parties, including the second-placed Socialists who have repeatedly said they would vote against Rajoy in a parliamentary vote to invest him as prime minister.

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, who until now had only said his party would abstain in an investiture vote, suggested on Tuesday the liberals could be prepared to vote "yes".

Rivera told a news conference he was open to further negotiations if Rajoy first agreed to a six-point reform pact, including measures on transparency and political financing and the end of legal protection for lawmakers.

"If the PP accepts these conditions and ... puts a time and date on an investiture vote, we're open to everything," Rivera said when asked whether a successful pact would lead Ciudadanos to vote in favour of Rajoy as prime minister.

"Spaniards don't have any more time, they want change but they also want a government," Rivera said.

Rajoy and Rivera are due to meet on Wednesday. The acting prime minister has accepted a mandate from the king to form a government but has yet to clarify if or when he would face an investiture vote.

Along with leftist Unidos Podemos ("Together We Can"), which was born out of a strong anti-austerity movement during a recent recession, centrist Ciudadanos has won over millions of voters from the traditional right and left forces.

While on opposite sides of the political spectrum the newcomer parties have both campaigned hard against political corruption and demanded an overhaul of Spain's voting system, which tends to favour larger forces.

Rivera said on Tuesday he would ask Rajoy to pursue an electoral reform. He is also demanding a parliamentary investigation into alleged illegal party financing within the PP.

(Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Richard Balmforth)


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