A glum Artur Mas greeted his supporters from a balcony in Barcelona. Far from winning an absolute majority, his centre-right CIU party has lost 12 seats in Catalonia’s regional election.
This is a blow in itself, but also sounds the death knell for his solo plan to push through a referendum on independence from Spain.
Some say voters have punished Mas for his austerity policies. But, putting a positive spin on the results, he assured the crowd that the election result is still worth celebrating as they have still won and with twice as many seats as their nearest competitors.
The separatist left-wing ERC has come out as the real winner in the election. Despite being in second place it has doubled its number of seats in the regional assembly to 21. Celebrations were understandably more animated at the ERC headquarters.
There were also smiles all round at the headquarters of Spain’s governing Popular Party.
“The separatists have failed,” said regional leader Alicia Sanchez Comacho. “They have fewer politicians in the regional assembly than they did two years ago. They have lost two seats. This is what Artur Mas has achieved.”
Two thirds of the electorate voted for pro-referendum parties, but support for Artur Mas has taken a knock. He now faces an uncomfortable round of political horse-trading to try and form a governing coalition.