Badalona, a symbol of instability: 4 mayors in 3 years

Socialist Guijarro leads motion of no confidence ousting conservative Garcia Albiol, embroiled in Pandora Papers scandal

Rubén Guijarro, new mayor of Badalona, signing the new government deal in Badalona, on October 28, 2021 (by Jordi Pujolar)
Rubén Guijarro, new mayor of Badalona, signing the new government deal in Badalona, on October 28, 2021 (by Jordi Pujolar) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

November 8, 2021 02:07 PM

Badalona, the fourth largest city in Catalonia, just north of Barcelona, has become a symbol of instability for the whole country, and on Monday the crisis deepened.

Its local council approved a motion of no confidence against the current mayor, the conservative Xavier García Albiol, who has been embroiled in the Pandora Papers scandal and appointed the Socialist Rubén Guijarro as successor.

This means the city has its fourth mayor in three and a half years – five if we also count an interim leader in spring 2020. 

Badalona, a traditionally left-wing working-class city

Traditionally a left-wing working-class city, Badalona was ruled by the communist PSUC in the first term after the Francisco Franco dictatorship, and then 28 years of Socialist mayors – similar to many other cities in the Barcelona metropolitan area – followed.

Yet, in 2011, Badalona became unique compared to its neighbors and the rest of Catalonia: in 1991, a young, tall politician, Xavier García Albiol, had become local councilor for the People's Party, and his hardline stance on migration and security steadily made him popular.

García Albiol becomes mayor with anti-migration stance

Twenty years later, he became the leader of the top party in the city using an anti-migration stance and one of the very few mayors for the conservatives – also helped by Iván Redondo, an advisor who went on to work for Spain's top politicians, including the current Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez.

Albiol governed for four years, in a controversial stint, until in 2015, all the left-wing parties united to dethrone him after the election despite the fact that the conservative prevailed in the election again.

From right-wing to far-left

Badalona went from a hardline right-wing mayor to a far-left one, Dolors Sabater. She was well known for being a grassroots leader who was a symbol in defense of vulnerable people. Her mandate coincided with the peak of the Catalan independence push, which she favored from her post, although the majority of the people in Badalona was unionist – also including García Albiol.

In an unnatural alliance, in 2018 the Socialist party overthrew Sabater for her role in the 2017 referendum preparations, but only thanks to García Albiol's support – the conservative had 10 seats and the Socialists, 4, but it was Álex Pastor, member of the latter, who became mayor because his party rejected backing the People's Party.

The results of the 2019 election meant the third victory of García Albiol in a row, but the left-wing parties united again to avoid his second stint and Pastor kept his post.

Mayor steps down after driving drunk amid pandemic

Yet, that did not last much either. He stepped down after being arrested on the evening of April 21, 2020, in the middle of the pandemic strict lockdown, after being caught driving drunk in Barcelona's city center. He was provisionally released but under investigation for reckless driving and assaulting police against them began.

The officers arrested him for skipping the lockdown, driving under the effects of alcohol, and attacking an authority.

The lack of consensus among left-wing parties meant García Albiol retake his post because he had won the election a year before.

Pandora Papers in Badalona politics

However, in October 2021, the Pandora Papers unveiled links between the until now Badalona mayor and a company based in Belize, a tax haven in Central America, which also operated from Andorra.

Therefore, Badalona has now its third mayor in the current term after all the opposition parties struck a deal to oust García Albiol – yet, the drama is guaranteed in Badalona, as the conservative leader has pledged to run again for mayor in the 2023 vote.