Manuel Valls and the Barcelona municipal election

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is running for Barcelona City Council elections scheduled to be held on Sunday 26th May this year, has decided to demonstrate against the socialist government in Madrid. The reason of this decision was the position of the Head of Government, Pedro Sanchez, who undertook to open a dialog with the Catalan Separatists.

Manuel Valls said his decision was motivated by his wish to stand up for Spanish unity, in a move that occurs at election time for a scrutiny in which he is not really a favourite, according to polls.

The polls, which are very few for this election, show Ciudadanos, the party which officially supports Valls’ candidacy, coming in the third or fourth position, around 15 % when there are any figures. On Sunday, Catalan newspaper Ara has unveiled results indicating that the coalition Republican Left of Catalonia – Catalonia Yes are in the lead. They would have nine seats in the City Council, against eight for Ciudadanos and eight to nine for Barcelona in Common, the party of the current Mayor, for a total of forty-one seats available in the City Council. Behind them, Catalan socialists are credited with five to six seats and Together for Catalonia (launched by former independantist leader Carles Puigdemont) would have five seats. Popular Unity Candidacy, which is a radical left-wing independentist movement would keep its three seats and Vox (an extreme-right formation) would enter the City Council for the first time, winning two seats. People’s party of Catalonia would have no seats at all.

For Ciudadanos and its leading figure, Manuel Valls, such a result would be an improvement considering the present representation of the party in Barcelona City Council where it only has five seats. But victory does not appear to be within its grasp for the moment, in a situation where the game of political alliances is for the moment contrary to its interests. To obtain a majority in the City Council, twenty-one seats are necessary. Today, this majority is formed by the union of Ada Colau’s party Barcelona in Common with the Republican Left of Catalonia and the socialists.

The perspective of a success for Manuel Valls has diminished since he has made many political mistakes after he had declared his intention to run for Barcelona City Council elections. For instance, he criticized the coalition concluded between the extreme-right party Vox and Ciudadanos in Andalusia, stating that «he would personally give up power rather than making a pact with extreme-right », while being dependent of the support of Ciudadanos for the election to be held in May. While searching for other allies, a necessary step to obtain a coalition, he has demonstrated last sunday in the anti-Sanchez procession, a move which is unlikely to help him getting the support of the President of the Government of Spain’s movement, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ party. He is moreover criticized by his opponents for lacking knowledge and experience of the city. Ada Colau, the current Mayor of Barcelona, underlined the shift between his previous support of the French Republic to his current support of the Spanish Monarchy. Others blame him for his belonging to the Left when he was a member of the Socialist party in France contrasting with the support offered by Ciudadanos (which is a moderate right party) to him for these elections. Some other episodes in this campaign have not improved his chances: for example, his team had to remove last December a campaign video in which an extreme-right female sympathizer appeared and gave her support for the French candidate. More recently, Valls also encountered representatives of Gypsy associations in Catalonia and attributed their tension to the current City Council’s action. He was eventually reminded of his own actions when he used to be the French Minister of the Interior : in 2013, the number of Gypsies expelled from France by him reached an unprecedented number.

Yvan Barbeau
Yvan Barbeau

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