Separatist voters in Spain's Catalonia region won regional elections on Sunday but failed to get a resounding mandate for a referendum on independence, which had threatened to pile political uncertainty on top of Spain's economic woes.

Artur Mas, the current Catalonia president and leader of the centre-right Covergence and Union (CiU) alliance, had promised a referendum on "self-determination" if the election had given him a strong mandate. However, with just 50 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament, the CiU was 18 short of the absolute majority he desired. That 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 issue of independence for Catalonia, which has its own language and sees itself as distinct from the rest of Spain, has long been an issue. But this will provide a little light relief for the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is himself battling a deep recession and 25% unemployment, while he struggles to cut high borrowing costs by convincing investors of Spain's fiscal and political stability.

Written and presented by Ann Salter.