Alternative left and green activist Ada Colau becomes first woman Mayor of Barcelona
Ada Colau is the new Mayor of Barcelona. It is the first time that the Catalan capital has a woman as Mayor. Colau, who led the alternative left and green coalition Barcelona en Comú, won the last municipal elections – held on 24 May. However, she lacked support to reach the absolute majority in the City Council and be elected Mayor. During the last 3 weeks, she has been negotiating with the other leftist parties over forming a coalition government or at least obtaining their support and reaching the 21 vote minimum necessary in the City Council’s mayoral election. None of the other parties have so far agreed to form a government coalition with Colau, but 3 of them have backed her to be elected Mayor. They are the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, the Catalan Socialist Party PSC and the radical independence and alternative left party CUP.
Barcelona (ACN).- Ada Colau is the new Mayor of Barcelona. It is the first time that the Catalan capital has a woman as Mayor. Colau, who led the alternative left and green coalition Barcelona en Comú, won the last municipal elections – held on 24 May. However, she lacked support to reach the absolute majority in the City Council and be elected Mayor. During the last 3 weeks, she has been negotiating with the other leftist parties over forming a coalition government or at least obtaining their support and reaching the 21 vote minimum necessary in the City Council’s mayoral election. Her group has only 11 seats, just one more than the second most voted list, that of the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, which was holding the mayoral office until last Saturday. None of the other parties have so far agreed to form a government coalition with Colau, although negotiations will continue in the days to come. However, 3 of them backed her for Mayor on Saturday. They are the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC (5 seats), the Catalan Socialist Party PSC (4 seats) and the radical independence and alternative left party CUP, although the latter split its 3 votes and only one CUP councillor voted for Colau. Within Colau’s coalition, the alternative left party at Spanish level Podemos (Ps), which was the big surprise in the last European elections in May 2014 as it had been founded just a few months early, will partially run Barcelona’s municipality.
The new Mayor of Barcelona announced she will prioritise social policies above all, after years of economic crisis. Furthermore, Ada Colau will also push forward the environmentalist agenda, since some of the parties running in her coalition are green parties. Regarding economic policies, she committed herself to support the city’s main projects, such as the Mobile World Congress and the development of major transport infrastructures (like the Sagrera train station and Barcelona Port). In addition, Colau will also greatly involve citizens in the decision-making process regarding important policies and projects, fostering citizen participation.
On top of this, the new Mayor openly supported Catalonia’s right to self-determination and highlighted that Barcelona, as Catalonia’s capital city, will stand alongside what Catalans decide in a free and a democratic vote. However, despite her explicit support for self-determination, she was ambiguous over whether she would support full independence from Spain or not. In fact, some parties in her coalition are openly pro-independence, while others are against it (although in support of self-determination).
“We are here to govern obeying the citizens”
On Saturday afternoon, when she was elected Mayor, Colau gave a long speech, sometimes visibly moved and interrupted by supporting echoes from the Barcelona en Comú crowd gathered for the occasion in Sant Jaume Square, in front of the Town Hall. “Today a new period and a new way of governing, side by side with citizens, start”, she said. “We are here to govern obeying the citizens, as should always have been the case”, she emphasised.
“Sack us if we are not doing what we said we would do and what the citizenry has ordered us to do”, Colau said. “However, I am also asking you to be aware of the complexity” of the task, she continued. “We will not be able to do everything on the first day and we are confronting the city’s consolidated powers”, she added. “We are here to make sure that there are never again first-class and second-class citizens”.
Open hand to the CiU and the Catalan Government, and support for self-determination
Colau also offered an open hand to talk to the main opposition party, the centre-right CiU, although in the last few weeks she had rejected any agreement with them. Colau thanked the former Mayor, Xavier Trias, from the CiU, for his “work and dedication” to the city, and opened the door to reaching agreements with them “on the main issues of the city, because Barcelona has to be the priority”.
Furthermore, she offered “institutional loyalty” to the Catalan Government but also demanded “respect” and “a relationship of equals” between the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas (from the CiU), and herself, Mayor of Barcelona. “We cannot tolerate Barcelona to be downplayed”, she stressed. In this vein, Colau proposed to Mas that they “go together to Madrid to talk with the [Spanish] State and demand the promised investments, which are not arriving”. In addition, the new Mayor stated “we want Barcelona to lead the Catalan constituent process to obtain real sovereignty”. “Catalonia must be able to decide its future, with respect towards the rest of territories, but with the unquestionable freedom of a democratic society”, she said.
A social activist becomes Mayor of the Catalan capital
Before running for Mayor, Colau was a well-known social activist, being the leader and the most visible representative of the association of people affected by home evictions, called Plataforma d’Afectats per l’Hipoteca (PAH). In the past, she used to organise demonstrations and protests in front of bank branches or houses where people were about to be evicted in order to stop judicial orders. Before these activities, in the late 2000s she had participated in other social activism campaigns, on many occasions related with housing rights and social inclusion.