However, Mr Gonzalez's example, intended to inject new life into the leadership, was not followed by the powerful regional barons who insisted on clinging to their seats. It was with their blessing that Mr Almunia emerged as the successor.
Mr Almunia, 49, a Basque from Bilbao who joined the party in Madrid in 1974 and became adviser to the socialist General Worker's Union, was elected to parliament in 1979, when he joined the party executive. He was 34 when he became Minister of Labour and Social Security in Mr Gonzalez's first government in 1982. Elizabeth Nash - Madrid