Race to become Barcelona mayor heats up
With Ernest Maragall expected to become ERC's candidate in next year's local election, pressure is mounting for him to stand on a united pro-independence ticket
News that the leader of the pro-independence Esquerra party (ERC) in Barcelona, Alfred Bosch, was to step aside to be replaced as candidate for mayor in next year's local elections by Catalan foreign minister, Ernest Maragall, elicited plenty of reaction across the political spectrum. As of Friday, Bosch officially stepped down.
In an interview with the Catalan News Agency on Friday, David Bonvehí, the head of the PDeCAT party, an ERC ally, called on Maragall to stand on a ticket representing a coalition of pro-independence parties should he decide to put himself forward as a candidate for Barcelona mayor.
"I ask him to talk to us about this again," said Bonvehí, who insisted that the pro-independence parties should bid to win Barcelona in the local elections in May 2019 "from a position of total unity in the pro-independence camp."
With ERC having held an emergency meeting on Friday evening to formally announce Bosch's resignation and Maragall's candidacy, the PDeCAT leader said his party hoped that the new candidate would take a different stance to Bosch and consider running on a united pro-independence ticket. "We hope this change will happen," said Bonvehí.
Torra calls for "more pro-independence mayors"
It was a sentiment shared by Catalan President Quim Torra, who said on Friday that "it is very important that the pro-independence camp wins these elections in Barcelona."
In fact, the president went further, saying he hoped that other localities in Catalonia would put forward candidates standing on a united pro-independence ticket in next year's local elections, in order to give the country "many more pro-independence mayors."
Meanwhile, Barcelona deputy mayor, Gerardo Pisarello, welcomed the possibility that Maragall might stand for mayor in the elections. "Any change that serves to reach agreements is good for the city," he said.
The number two to current Barcelona mayor Ada Colau went on to say that he hoped the change of candidate would lead to a breakthrough on issues over which Colau's local government and ERC, under Bosch, have been at loggerheads.
"We hope that once the decision is made official it will lead to progress in agreements over issues of public transport, such as the tram connection, which would be a positive change," said Pisarello, who also said he was a great admirer of Maragall's brother, Pasqual, who served as Barcelona mayor from 1982 to 1997.
Valls to announce his plans on Tuesday
Yet others also have their eyes on taking control of the Catalan capital, one of whom is the former French prime minister, Manuel Valls. A strong critic of the independence movement, Valls has been touted as a possible candidate for the unionist Ciutadans party (Cs).
The leader of Cs, Albert Rivera, on more than one occasion has urged Valls to become the candidate for his party in Barcelona, and on Friday he said he hoped that Valls would accept. "It would be good for Barcelona to have a mayor with a cosmopolitan vision, a Europeanist mayor, who has defended the unity of Spain," said Rivera on Friday.
Despite giving some hints about his intentions to run for mayor on social media, Valls has remained tight-lipped about the possibility of his standing for mayor. However, he has called a press conference in Barcelona on Tuesday September 25 to announce his intentions.
With Valls using the email domain name @valls2019.com in his posts online, it is generally believed that he will decide to run for mayor. However, whether he chooses to do so for Cs is another thing, as he has already said he would prefer to stand as a cross-party candidate.