Mas' only other options for coalition partners are the center-right Popular Party or the center-left Socialist Party, but he would have to drop his push for a secession referendum because both vigorously oppose such a vote.

The outcome of Sunday's election produced such a political stalemate that it's impossible to predict whether a renewed drive for a secession referendum would work, said Angel Rivero Rodriguez, a political science professor at Madrid's Autonomous University.

"Right now we are not sure about the state of the Catalan independence process," he said. "We don't know if this new situation is going to accelerate the process or hide it again indefinitely."

Catalonia has had a long history separatist sentiment, especially since its own language and cultural traditions were harshly repressed by Gen. Francisco Franco's military dictatorship from the end of Spain's Civil War in 1939 until his death in 1975.

This fall, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refused to ease Catalonia's tax load. And some 1.5 million people turned out in Barcelona in September for the largest Catalonian nationalist rally since the 1970s.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform