MADRID (Reuters) - Anti-austerity party Podemos would come second if a new national election was held today, overtaking the Socialists, who are currently leading talks to form a government, a survey showed on Thursday.
The result in Podemos' favor is likely to weigh significantly on negotiations to build a left-wing coalition after an inconclusive December election created a political stalemate.
The talks, which started on Wednesday, are already hampered by Podemos and the Socialists disagreeing on a series of fundamental questions, including a possible referendum on independence in Catalonia.
Now Podemos may feel it has a stronger hand in the discussions and could be less prepared to strike difficult compromises.
According to the survey by the Sociological Research Centre (CIS), the People's Party of acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would come first with 28.8 percent of the vote, slightly up from 28.72 percent on Dec. 20 but still short of a parliamentary majority.
The Socialists would drop from the second to third place, garnering only 20.5 percent of the votes compared to their previous 22.02 percent, while anti-austerity Podemos would rise to 21.9 percent from 20.65 percent.
Newcomer liberal party Ciudadanos would be in fourth place with 13.3 percent compared to 13.93 percent in December.
Socialist chief Pedro Sanchez said the CIS poll, which was based on 2,496 interviews and conducted between Jan. 2 and Jan. 11, before Rajoy declined to form a government and passed the baton to Sanchez, was outdated.
Speaking to the journalists after a meeting with Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, Sanchez said there was "common ground" with the liberal party. However, Ciudadanos said it would not back a Socialist-led coalition unless the PP was part of it.
With Sanchez and Rajoy ruling out again such a possibility on Thursday, this perspective however looks uncertain.
Sanchez, who said he would need at least one month before he could seek the confidence of the parliament, is due to meet Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias on Friday.
Given parliament's unprecedented fragmentation, the support of Podemos alone for a coalition would not be enough. The Socialists would need the backing of at least three parties and the abstention of several others to achieve a majority.
Under Spain's constitution, a two-month deadline to form a government will come into effect once the first confidence vote takes place. If that deadline expires a new national election is called.
Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky