Election campaign kicks off with tight race expected in Barcelona

Poll released on Thursday predicted a split vote but with incumbent Colau narrowly leading

Candidats for mayor in Barcelona, Eva Parera, Anna Grau, Jaume Collboni, Ernest Maragall, Ada Colau, Xavier Trias, and Daniel Sirera
Candidats for mayor in Barcelona, Eva Parera, Anna Grau, Jaume Collboni, Ernest Maragall, Ada Colau, Xavier Trias, and Daniel Sirera / Sílvia Jardí
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

May 12, 2023 01:13 AM

May 12, 2023 09:13 PM

The election campaign is officially underway. The next two weeks will see campaign rallies, meetings, events, posters, complaints, and promises, as politicians hope to convince the public to give them their vote in the municipal elections on May 28.  

People in 947 different towns across Catalonia will cast their ballots on the last Sunday of the month to elect new sets of council members. 

The Catalan capital is always one of the most pivotal battlegrounds when it comes to the local election. Incumbent Ada Colau, the spearhead of the left-wing En Comú movement, is hoping to win a third consecutive term after bursting onto the political scene hand-in-hand with the anti-austerity Podemos movement across all of Spain, born out of people's frustrations of the post-2008 financial crisis struggles. 

Since coming to power in 2015, Colau has had a significant impact on Barcelona, not least with her party's superblocks and tactical urbanism policies aimed at giving more green space and pedestrianized zones to locals. 

Ada Colau aplaudeix durant l'acte inicial de campanya, a la sala la Paloma

With polls suggesting a split vote in the capital, Colau urged progressive parties to join forces and work together, speaking at her party's launch event in the La Paloma ballroom on Thursday evening. She hopes that the next administration in Barcelona will be "courageous" and maintain the transformation process her party has initiated, reclaiming it as a "model" city. 

The latest poll has the incumbent mayor narrowly ahead of the Socialist candidate, Jaume Collboni, who promised to bring back "order, opportunities, and pride" to Barcelona if comes out on top. 

On the opening night of the campaign, the candidate called for the support of residents who want to see a Barcelona that was "doing well", that "dreamed big and took care of people," and the version of their city that "said 'hello' to the world at the Olympic Games." 

El candidat del PSC, Jaume Collboni, saludant en l'acte d'inici de campanya

The Socialist also made a promise to be tough on squatters, with the issue a hot topic in the city this week, with the high-profile cases of two houses in the area of Plaça Bonanova, in Sarrià. "When I am mayor, the laws will be enforced and we will not let anyone carry out justice on their own." 

Third in the polling is Junts candidate, Xavier Trias, who served as Barcelona mayor from 2011-2015. His election 12 years ago broke a 32-year-run of Socialist rule in the council of the Catalan capital before he was ousted by Ada Colau. This time round, he's looking for an "incontestable majority" to govern Barcelona. 

"We need a large majority", Trias told supporters on Thursday evening at his campaign kick-off event. Despite the CIS poll, Trias is confident of winning: "We are strong, we're going out to win."

El candidat de Junts a Barcelona, Xavier Trias, fa un discurs en l'acte d'inici de campanya pel 28-M

Of the four favorites to become Barcelona mayor for the next four years, Trias is the only figure that sits right-of-center on the ideology spectrum. Pro-business, while also pro-independence, Trias promises "good management" of the city and has railed against Colau's policies in recent months, accusing her of governing with "ideology in mind" and lacking "dedication."

He believes that Barcelona has become "dirty," and that mobility has become "a problem" for citizens. Trias has previously said he wants to stop the current project of connecting Barcelona's two separate tram lines. Although he says the city is still a "reference," Trias believes it is currently at a "low" point, and that citizens have lost "self-esteem and pride" for the city. 

Trailing Trias in the polls is then Ernest Maragall of Esquerra Republicana (ERC), the other pro-independence candidate among the favorites – Colau's party is aligned with national parties in favor of self-determination and a referendum, while Collboni's Socialists are for the unity of Spain. 

Maragall actually received the most votes in Barcelona in 2019's election, but a coalition between Colau, Collboni, and centrist Manuel Valls permitted the En Comú candidate to keep the mayorship. 

El candidat d'ERC a Barcelona, Ernest Maragall, durant el míting inicial de campanya

At his campaign launch event where he was backed up by Catalan president Pere Aragonès and his party president Oriol Junqueras, Ernest Maragall took the past administrations in Barcelona, covering all of his major rivals as Collboni has worked closely with Colau, with the ERC candidate claiming that the "expulsion" of locals from Barcelona began with Trias and increased with Colau and Collboni. 

For Maragall, the city is now "worse" in matters of inequality, housing opportunities, and the protection of basic citizenship rights. One of his promises on kick-off night was to add Barcelona to the program of expropriating empty units from large-scale property owners, referring to the new initiative of the Catalan government

Meanwhile, the candidate of the conservative People's Party, Daniel Sirera, said that his party is "the only non-separatist center-right party" that can enter the council strongly. The mayor hopeful hopes "not to lose any constitutionalist vote that ends up in the bin" as he tried to court voters from the likes of Ciudadanos, Valents, and Vox. Leader of the Catalan People's Party, Alejandro Fernández, struck a similar tone, adding that other candidacies are "very far" from Sirera's and that "all of them together will not even add up to 10%," urging the public to concentrate their support on Sirera. 

During the opening event, Sirera criticized both the Socialists and the Barcelona En Comú because, in his opinion, "they have turned Barcelona into an unfriendly, dirty city with mobility problems."

Ciudadanos candidate Anna Grau began her campaign with a dismissal of the polls, which foresee her party possibly not even meeting the 5% threshold needed, and therefore having no seats in the council. "Ciudadanos exists, resists, and insists," she said, before affirming that the objective of her liberal centrist group is none other than "getting Colau out." 

Valents candidate, Eva Parera, kicked off the electoral campaign by positioning herself as the "change." The head of the centrist group said that "the independence movement and populism will pack their bags because on May 28 we will kick them out of the institutions."