"We must wait and see what will happen in the municipal elections.in many regions and of course in the European Parliament", Socialist party president Cristina Narbona told Spanish radio.
Ines Arrimadas, head of Ciudadanos in Catalonia, added on Monday: "Everyone who voted for Ciudadanos did so knowing that we would not ally with Sanchez".
With almost all the votes counted, the Socialists together with the far-left Podemos were 11 seats short of a majority in the 350-seat parliament.
People's Party (PP) candidate Pablo Casado reacts after the counting of the votes in Spain's general election in Madrid, Spain, April 28, 2019. It's the first time since the Franco dictatorship that a fascist party won more than one seat in Spain's parliament.
Therefore, PSOE and UP combined would sum up 165 seats, falling short by 11 seats of an outright 176-seat majority in Congress.
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"Let's not rush into predicting the dominance of the right in Europe". With 67 seats, the once-dominant Popular Party has lost nearly half of its presence in the Congress of Deputies, losing votes to the center-right Citizens party, which grabbed 53 seats and far-right party Vox won 23.
If Sanchez does not need to rely on Catalan separatists, who brought down his minority government, he may have more political freedom to deal with the Catalan independence movement.
Playing down talk of possible coalition options, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the Socialists would try to govern alone, while party president Cristina Narbona said it was in no hurry to decide. But this seems unlikely - both parties said in the campaign that they wouldn't support one another, as they have very different approaches to the Catalan independence crisis. It won only 66 seats - 17% of the vote - less than half the number of seats it secured during the last election in 2016.
But the separatists have proven unreliable allies.
Speculation that Mr Rivera might change his mind after the election in order to enter government was seemingly quashed on Monday after Mr Rivera told supporters in Madrid he was now "leading the opposition".
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The pro-independence parties, including ERC, will be under a lot of pressure to avoid the government collapsing, as it would trigger another election which could bring a combination of the three right-wing parties to power. Voter turnout was high and reached 76 %.
"The Spaniards wanted to vote and they did so massively", wrote veteran journalist Lucia Mendez in the conservative daily El Mundo. But, it could have been worse - they had hoped for an even bigger breakthrough, and they hoped to form a coalition with PP and Ciudadanos, like they did after the December regional election in Andalucia, in the south of Spain.
A new government needs an absolute majority in a first round parliamentary vote to take office.
The feeling is mutual in Ciudadanos, whose leader Albert Rivera built his campaign on disparaging Sanchez, criticising his attempts to negotiate with Catalan separatists.
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