Alternative left leader to seek agreements with other leftist parties to run Barcelona City Council
The most likely future Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, has held a press conference the day after election night, in which her alternative left, green and pro-self-determination coalition Barcelona en Comú became the most-voted party in the Catalan capital, obtaining 11 seats, far from the 21-seat absolute majority. Colau stated that she would “start a round of talks” with the other left-wing parties to look for government agreements as of this Monday. She will contact the social-democrat Catalan independence party ERC (5 seats), the Catalan Socialist Party (4 seats) and the radical independence and alternative left-wing party CUP (3 seats). However, she did not rule out the possibility of reaching specific agreements with other parties on some important issues. She also highlighted her commitment to Catalonia’s right to self-determination. In addition, Colau also accused the current Mayor from the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Xavier Trias, of signing last-minute contracts before leaving office.
Barcelona (ACN).- The most likely future Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, has held a press conference the morning after election night, in which her alternative left, green and pro-self-determination coalition Barcelona en Comú became the most-voted party in the Catalan capital, obtaining 11 seats in the City Council, far from the 21-seat absolute majority. Colau stated that as of this Monday she would “start a round of talks” with the other left-wing parties to look for government agreements. This means contacting the social-democrat Catalan independence party ERC (5 seats), the Catalan Socialist Party (4 seats) and the radical independence and alternative left-wing party CUP (3 seats). The ERC told Colau that if Barcelona en Comú becomes “an actor”, “everything will be easier” to push the independence process forward, while the PSC is open to talk about reaching agreements “without prejudices” and “without limitations”. However, Colau did not rule out the possibility of reaching specific agreements with the rest of parties on some important issues. She also repeated her commitment to Catalonia’s right to hold a self-determination vote. In addition, she also accused the current Mayor and candidate from the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Xavier Trias (whose party dropped from 14 to 10 seats in the elections), of signing last-minute contracts before leaving office. Colau asked Trias and his team to abstain from signing any new contracts in the weeks before the new Mayor takes office, which may happen around mid-June. The CiU was extremely offended by Colau’s comments, which were of “low moral standard” according to them.
After last night’s electoral results, the governing of Barcelona is quite complicated, as the City Council is very fragmented and none of the more easily foreseeable post-electoral coalitions reach the absolute majority. The two alternative left groups, Barcelona en Comú and the CUP, have 14 seats combined. In order to reach the absolute majority it would still need support from two social-democrat parties, the ERC (5 seats) and the PSC (4 seats). On the other hand, the CiU and the ERC together would only obtain 15 seats, and would have great difficulty in convincing the PSC to support them. In any case, Trias already accepted defeat yesterday and promised to respect the most-voted candidature and allow Colau to take the initiative and try to form a government for the city.
Colau explained this Monday that she does not have any pre-agreed electoral coalition and that she will start to negotiate now to form the city government. She is said to be ready to share government responsibilities with other parties and form a coalition government, or to rule the city with a minority government and receive external support from other parties to pass measures. “It’s obvious we don’t hold an absolute majority. We obtained a result of 11 councillors and obviously, as we have already shown so far, if we were able to form such a winning candidature, it is because of our capacity to talk, reach agreements and work with a lot of different people sharing a common objective”, she stated. “And following this very same strategy for success, we expect to govern the city and, for this reason, we obviously address the [rest of the] political forces”, she added.
Nonetheless, Colau ruled out reaching any stable agreement with the three conservative parties: the CiU, the People’s Party (which runs the Spanish Government) and the anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s). The PP dropped from 9 to 3 seats and C’s was one of last night’s big surprises, entering the City Council for the first time, obtaining 5 seats and overtaking the ERC by a few hundred votes. “We know that we have different points of view about the model of the city than the CIU, PP and Ciutadans, so we rule out the possibility of reaching government agreements [with them]”, she explained.
However, Colau could reach specific agreements with any party at the City Council “on important issues”, she said, including the CiU, the PP and C’s. “There may be specific agreements with them about important aspects in the city, but obviously, in order to look for [government] agreements we will prioritise the understanding with the ERC, PSC and CUP”.
Colau was also asked about her support for Catalonia’s self-determination process. On the occasion of last 9 November’s symbolic vote on independence, in which 2.35 million Catalans participated and support for independence was around 80% support, Colau said that she had voted for independence. However, she also added that if Spain fully recognised Catalonia’s nationhood status, she may have voted differently. On Monday, she said that “We understand that Catalonia is a nation that must be able to freely decide, with a respectful and calm [attitude], but freely, its relationship with the Spanish State”, emphasising Barcelona en Comú’s commitment to Catalonia’s right to self-determination. In fact, adding the seats of Colau’s coalition (11) to those of the CiU, the ERC and the CUP, 29 councillors out of 41 clearly support Catalonia’s right to hold a self-determination vote, 70% of the total.
Doubts about the 27 September Catalan elections
However, despite representatives who support self-determination significantly increasing their number in Barcelona (and in the whole of Catalonia) and more people voting for these parties overall than four years ago, some media and political leaders have started to cast doubt about the convenience of holding early elections to the Catalan Parliament on 27 September next, since they could be held any time up until December 2016. These elections would be presented by pro-independence parties as a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence, since it is the only way left to hold a legal vote on the issue after the total blocking attitude of the Spanish Government, which is ignoring the democratic claims of previous elections and massive demonstrations and rejecting calls to sit and talk about how to allow a mutually-agreed vote.
This Monday’s doubt comes after the CiU lost Barcelona’s mayoral office and went from 14 to 10 seats, and dropped 110,000 votes throughout Catalonia despite still being the most-voted party. Since the elections should be officially called by the CiU leader and current President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, some people advise Mas to refrain from doing so. One of these people is the PP leader in Catalonia, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, who asked Mas not to call elections in September in order to avoid “the radical left” and “the anti-system” forces increasing their representation in the Catalan Parliament. Others were less clear, such as the leader of the Green Socialist party ICV (which was part of the Barcelona en Comú coalition), Dolors Camats. “What happened in Barcelona could also happen in the whole of Catalonia in September”, so “Mas should take note of this”, stated Camats, expressing both a threat and a wish. Mas met with the CiU’s executive body in the afternoon and stated that the 27th of September is the day chosen to hold the Catalan Parliament elections, and a debate about this should not take place now.