Although Autur Mas, the leader of the centre-right Convergència i Unió (CiU) and incumbent president of the region of Catalonia has won a majority of the 135 seats in the regional parliament, his party will now only have 50 members, 12 less than before.
The real winner in the election was the left-wing Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) led by Oriol Junqueras which has won 21 seats, gaining back the momentum it lost in the previous two elections during the economic boom. It has now outstripped the socialist Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC) – which has dropped from 28 to 20 seats – to become the second largest party in parliament.
The conservative Partit Popular de Catalunya (PP), which is generally thought to be unpopular in Catalonia because of its close ties with the central government, did better than expected and has picked up one seat to make a total of 19.
Mas, who hoped to win an outright majority, has said that the result is disappointing. He will now have to rely on the smaller parties to get his legislation approved. He may also come under pressure from parties to his left to be more aggressive in his approach to independence for Catalonia.
Mas based much of his campaign on his pledge to organise a referendum on independence for the region. Overall the parties asking for a referendum have gained 64.4 per cent of the seats in parliament.
Under the terms of the Spanish constitution only the central government can call a referendum and all the Spanish regions must then vote on it.
Mas could have been damaged in the last days of the campaign by rumours stirred up by the deputy prime minister in Madrid of an unsigned police report accusing Mas of having money in Switzerland from kick-backs he is alleged to have received on public contracts.