Although the Democratic and Popular Union received the most votes in the Congressional elections, the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement-Alliance (A–MNR) won the most seats, largely as a result of the electoral system giving more seats to sparsely populated rural areas where the A–MNR was more popular.
General elections had previously been held in July 1978, the first since 1966, with several military coups taking place during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although Juan Pereda of the Nationalist Union of the People won the presidential elections, more votes were cast than there were registered voters. After examining a number of allegations of fraud and other irregularities, the Electoral Court decided to annul the results on 20 July. The following day, Pereda was installed as President following a military coup. Pereda himself was overthrown by yet another military coup in November, which saw General David Padilla assume the presidency, promising to hold fresh elections in July the following year.