The center-right Catalonian nationalists won the regional elections here Sunday but with 98.7 percent of the votes counted were far from garnering "the exceptional majority" they were seeking to push their sovereignty plan.
The CiU coalition headed by regional President Artur Mas lost 12 seats in the 135-seat Catalonian legislature falling to 50 seats from the 62 it had won in the 2010 election.
Catalonia's now second-largest political force, the independence-minded ERC, gained 11 seats - now holding 21 - and displaced the Socialist Party, which lost 8 seats, falling to 20 in the legislature, from that position. The Popular Party, or PP, which governs Spain, gained 1 seat, rising to 19.
Given the election result, the CiU will need the support of other parties to govern, as Mas acknowledged calling on the other parties to exercise "responsibility" and begin "a period of reflection."
The regional president had moved the election up after Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy last September rejected his proposal to give Catalonia special fiscal treatment - different from that received by Spain's other autonomous communities - due to drastic deficit-reducing cuts in health and education Mas felt forced to implement
A record 69.4 percent of the Catalonian electorate voted.
Catalonia - with 7.5 million people - is one of Spain's richest regions, but it has been hit hard by the economic crisis and its heavy debt load has forced it to ask Madrid for aid.
Many Catalans feel their region would do better economically if it were independent from Spain, saying that a high percentage of their taxes are funneled to Madrid's central government. EFE