Only after that can King Juan Carlos ask Mr Gonzalez to form a government. Then, since his Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) is 17 seats short of an absolute majority in the Congreso (lower house), deals will have to be made with other parties to ensure his investiture, by absolute majority, probably in July.
Given that his party has 18 more seats than the conservatives, there is no sign that anyone will try to block the investiture. Later on, individual legislation is another matter. Unforeseen crises notwithstanding, Mr Gonzalez should be able to cruise until the autumn before announcing his promised 'new-look' government.
In the meantime, here are a few significant points that emerged from Sunday's balloting. A heart attack suffered by the leader of the far-left United Left (IU), the Communist Julio Anguita, 10 days earlier, may have helped tip the scales in Mr Gonzalez's favour. The IU won 18 seats but had expected between 25 and 28.
Mr Gonzalez's home region of Andalusia proved crucial. Although the PSOE slipped in the region from a difference of 30 seats over the conservatives to a difference of 17, the gap virtually represented the party's eventual nationwide majority. Significantly, it was the far left of the PSOE, from which Mr Gonzalez had publicly distanced himself, that appeared to hold the Andalusia vote. Mr Gonzalez's deputy leader in the PSOE, fellow Andalusian Alfonso Guerra, ordered to stay in the campaign shadows, won the highest PSOE vote in the country, 56 per cent, to retain his congressional seat in the Andalusian capital, Seville.
The moral of the above two points: expect the left to remind Mr Gonzalez quickly, 'You owe us.'
Perhaps the most delighted grouping after the elections was the Canaries' Coalition (CC), campaigning for national recognition for the Canary Islands they feel have been neglected by Madrid. The CC, standing only in the islands, won four congressional seats and five in the Senate. 'Arithmetically and theoretically, we are in a position to govern Spain,' the CC's leader said. 'Politically and realistically, it's unlikely. But we could hold the balance of power.' Given the new hung parliament, he was not exaggerating.
Also delighted were Spain's bullfighting aficionados. Not so, the Green Party which, campaigning partly on a platform of killing off the fiesta nacional (bullfighting), failed to win any of its hoped-for seats.
A more dramatic drop was suffered by the centrist Democratic and Social Centre (CDS), successor of Adolfo Suarez's old Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD) which won Spain's first modern democratic election in 1977. From winning 166 seats that year, the party had gradually sunk to only 14 in 1989. This time, however, it won none.
The collapse of the Basque Eta guerrillas, and their theory of independence through terrorism, was reflected in the fall of their political wing, Herri Batasuna (HB). The HB, like Eta increasingly rejected by Basques, lost two of its four congressional seats.Reuse content