Spain's PM says open to pact after too-close-to-call election

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MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, facing a likely slim win at the election on Sunday according to opinion polls, said on Wednesday he would consider a political pact to assure a stable government over the next term.

Rajoy’s conservative ruling People’s Party (PP) which, over the last four years, has presided over one of the worst economic slumps in decades, is seen winning the election but well short of the parliamentary majority it has enjoyed since 2011.

The PP’s three political rivals are close behind, with the traditional left-wing Socialists (PSOE) and newcomers including the liberal Ciudadanos and anti-austerity Podemos running neck and neck in the polls.

Rajoy refused to say with which opponent his party would consider joining forces, saying the situation was too unclear to predict.

“We’ll see who has the most political support, and that group must find more backing in order to form a stable government,” Rajoy said in a radio interview.

One in three voters surveyed in an official poll earlier in December either refused to give their preference, were undecided or planned to abstain. That, together with the transformation of Spain’s political landscape, make predicting the election outcome very difficult.

Hard times, with more than a fifth of the workforce unemployed, and anger over a slew of corruption scandals have fueled the rise of the new parties, breaking the mould of a system long dominated by the PP and the PSOE.

Of the three most probable runners-up, the PP’s most likely partner would be the market-friendly Ciudadanos, led by the charismatic 36-year-old Albert Rivera.

However, Rivera has said he would not enter in to a coalition with Rajoy or the Socialists. He has remained cagey over whether his party would abstain from a confidence vote which would allow a party to form a minority government.

Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Alison Williams