Incumbent Prime MinisterFelipe González of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party lost the elections to the People's Party and their leader José María Aznar, thus ending almost 13 and a half years of Socialist rule: to date, the largest period of time a Spanish party has been in power. However, that of Aznar was a bitter victory. He won just 156 seats out of the 176 needed for a majority, thus short of 20 seats to form a majority government. Aznar had to make agreements with Catalan, Basque and Canarian nationalists to become Prime Minister. Similarly, González's one is known as the dulce derrota (sweet defeat). Despite suffering a net loss of 18 seats and being ousted from government, the popular vote margin between both main parties was of just 300,000 votes.
Despite pre-electoral opinion polls and predictions of a huge PSOE defeat and a PP lead of around 10 points, the close end result makes this election the closest in the Spanish democratic period to date.
Under Article 68 of the Spanish constitution, the boundaries of the electoral districts must be the same as the provinces of Spain and, under Article 141, this can only be altered with the approval of Congress.
The apportionment of seats to provinces follows the largest remainder method over the resident population ("Padrón") with a minimum of two seats (cf. Art. 162 of the Electoral Law).
Article 67.3 of the Spanish Constitution prohibits dual membership of both chambers of the Cortes or of the Cortes and regional assemblies, meaning that candidates must resign from regional assemblies if elected. Article 70 also makes active judges, magistrates, public defenders, serving military personnel, active police officers and members of constitutional and electoral tribunals ineligible. Article 55, Section 2 of the 1985 electoral law also disqualifies director generals or equivalent leaders of state monopolies and public bodies such as the Spanish state broadcaster RTVE.