19-year-old mayor, end to 44-year stint in power, successful outliers: Catalonia has new mayors

Junts, Esquerra and the Socialists take over most significant municipalities in country

Portbou mayor Gael Rodríguez during the mayor investiture plenary on June 17, 2023. He is the youngest mayor in Europe, aged 19.
Portbou mayor Gael Rodríguez during the mayor investiture plenary on June 17, 2023. He is the youngest mayor in Europe, aged 19. / Ariadna Reche
Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | @enGuifre | Barcelona

June 17, 2023 02:23 PM

June 17, 2023 02:30 PM

Most Catalan local councils appointed their new mayors for the 2023-2027 term this Saturday early afternoon.

While in some municipalities the uncertainty over the identity of the new mayor reigned until the last minute, such as in Ripoll, where in the end far-right Sílvia Orriols got the top post, in others there was less drama – for instance, two Socialists were appointed as mayors in Lleida and Tarragona after they won the elections, while far-left CUP's Lluc Salellas was sworn in in Girona after a pro-independence deal announced on Friday.

Barcelona follows the tradition of being the last municipality with a new mayor, therefore the vote will take place on Saturday evening – so far, pro-independence Junts is very likely to return to power, after a coalition deal with Esquerra's Ernest Maragall accepted by both parties' members. Yet, the Socialist candidate, Jaume Collboni, could still frustrate Trias' bid if En Comú and the People's Party support him.

Elsewhere, the main municipalities of the country already have their new leaders.

Socialists and outliers succeed in metropolitan area

For instance, Socialists Núria Marín and Núria Parlon will continue governing in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat and Santa Coloma de Gramenet, respectively.

In Badalona and Terrassa, election winners Xavier García Albiol, for the conservatives, and Jordi Ballart, for the local party Tot per Terrassa, were also sworn in as mayors – both of them had been mayors in the past, and are two of the most-well known 'outliers' in local politics.

Albiol is member of the People's Party, a political force with little support in all other elections in Badalona and in the rest of the country – yet, in the fourth biggest of Catalonia, the incoming mayor garnered an absolute majority thanks to his charismatic figure.

Badalona conservative People's Party mayor Xavier García Albiol is the leader of the city for the third time
Badalona conservative People's Party mayor Xavier García Albiol is the leader of the city for the third time / Albert Segura

A similar story happened in Terrassa, where the once member of the Socialists, Jordi Ballart, ran as mayor for the second time with his own local party, Tot per Terrassa, and also managed to get the mayoral baton.

Both metropolitan cities are evidence that voters' behavior in local elections changes, usually prioritizing the mayoral candidates over the parties they represent.

Junts and Esquerra get several mayors in central Catalonia

In central Catalonia, the pro-independence parties have almost all power, with Esquerra achieving the top post in county capitals such as Manresa and Solsona, while Junts took Vic and Igualada, and CUP's Ivan Sànchez was sworn in in Berga.

Elsewhere, Junts' Jordi Masquef is now mayor of Figueres, in the north, while Josep Maria Vallès prevailed in Sant Cugat del Vallès after no other party garnered an absolute majoritiy.

Figueres mayor Jordi Masquef on June 17, 2023
Figueres mayor Jordi Masquef on June 17, 2023 / Gemma Tubert

Esquerra lost a significant amount of relevant municipalities after a six-point drop in vote share on May 28, but kept small county capitals such as Sort, Falset and Amposta.

Socialists achieve mayoral baton in several county capitals

The Socialists confirmed their gains in the vote last month, garnering a majority in Tremp, near the western Pyrenees; in Balaguer, also in the west; in Tortosa, in the Ebre river delta region; in Reus, near Tarragona; and also in Vilanova i la Geltrú, a coastal town just south of the metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, the anti-austerity party En Comú Podem got El Prat de Llobregat, just south of Barcelona, where the airport is located, while the People's Party won the mayorship in Castelldefels, just south of El Prat.

Europe's youngest mayor is Catalan

There are over 900 municipalities in Catalonia, and some anecdotes during the opening day of the new term include Socialist Gael Rodríguez becoming the youngest mayor of Europe at 19 – he got the absolute majority of council seats in his town, Portbou, at the Spain – France border.

This is "more pressure" for him, as he said on Saturday, but will help him "do it even better than expected."

Rodríguez became mayor in the first election that he was eligible to cast a ballot.

End to 44 years of Socialist mayors in Sant Andreu de la Barca

Meanwhile, in Sant Andreu de la Barca, Esquerra's Marc Giribet was expected to be elected as mayor after 44 years of Socialist governments – ever since democracy was restored.