Poll Win for Catalonia's Nationalists
Voters in the Spanish region of Catalonia have given their backing to nationalist parties but have punished the regional president who called an early election.
Voters frustrated with the economic crisis and the Spanish tax system, which they claim is unfair to Catalonia, handed almost two-thirds of the 135-seat local parliament to four different separatist parties that all want to hold a referendum on secession from Spain.
The governing centre-right CiU led by Catalan President Artur Mas remains the largest party, winning 50 seats out of 135, down from 62 last time.
The cut in seats however will make it difficult for Mas to lead a united drive to hold a referendum in defiance of the constitution and the central government in Madrid.
The left-wing separatist ERC party came second with 21 seats.
Both parties want to hold a referendum on independence from Spain.
A referendum would be illegal under the current Spanish constitution, and Spain's ruling Popular Party is likely to block any attempts for constitutional change.
Other parties, such as the nationalist Ciutadans, the Popular Party of Catalonia and the Socialist Party of Catalonia are all opposed to Catalonia's independence bid.