En Comú battles to keep Barcelona mayorship and advance on Socialist 'red belt' in local elections

Ada Colau, incumbent mayor in Catalan capital, targeting third consecutive mandate

A campaign event for Barcelona En Comú in the Catalan capital
A campaign event for Barcelona En Comú in the Catalan capital / Gerard Escaich Folch
Gerard Escaich Folch

Gerard Escaich Folch | @gescaichfolch | Barcelona

May 26, 2023 03:32 PM

May 26, 2023 04:19 PM

After storming to the very forefront of Catalan politics when she won the Barcelona mayorship in 2015, Ada Colau is now running to remain in the post until 2027.

The left-wing Barcelona en Comú candidate landed at the top spot when she first joined politics, and after two mandates as leader of the city council, she's now hoping for a third consecutive mandate after the May 28 vote.


In her first election, Colau's party won more votes than any other party, having 11 councilors elected, and they ousted then-mayor Xavier Trias running for nationalist center-right Convergència i Unió. Trias is running again this year, this time under the name of 'Trias per Barcelona', backed by Junts per Catalunya. 

Despite promising she would only run for one mandate, four years later, in 2019, she repeated the election and became the second most voted candidate, narrowly behind pro-independence Esquerra Republicana's Ernest Maragall.

In 2019, Colau's party came second with ten representatives in the council, but after a coalition deal with the Socialists and the support of former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, she kept the mayorship.

Before becoming a politician, the Barcelona en Comú candidate was a member of the PAH Mortgage Platform, which fights for housing access and against evictions—making housing one of her key aspects during her time in the local administration, as well as mobility and sustainability.

Tramway connection

One of the measures the Catalan capital's city council has pushed for during Colau's tenure is the project to connect the two tram lines through the center of the city, via Diagonal Avenue, something that will reduce the number of cars on roads.

Reducing the number of vehicles on the road has also been one of the objectives of the 'superilles', or superblocks, project, which makes streets pedestrian friendly. The last one was seen in the Eixample neighborhood's Consell de Cent Street.

However, this will not be the last one if the anti-austerity candidate remains as mayor.

"We will keep bringing peace to the Eixample neighborhood and continue its [green] transformation, making all school surroundings quieter and adding 20 new superblocks around the 10 city districts," she said during the local elections campaign.


Access to affordable housing has been another priority for Colau, with special attention on the battle against Airbnb and tourist apartments, as these are having a long-term affect of raising rent prices in areas, pushing locals out of their neighborhoods and homes. To fight "over-tourism", the candidate even started refurbishing La Rambla boulevard to "detouristify" it.

The number of visitors arriving by sea is also one of her main proposed changes, as during the last mandate she suggested halving the number of cruise ships per day, limiting it to only 10,000 passengers.

Some of these ideas, however, have not yet been enforced, but Spanish labor minister and promoter of Spain's new left-wing party Sumar, Yolanda Díaz, who backs Colau's candidacy, has already warned of what that, with another mayor in charge, these plans may never be put in motion.

Local elections are important "because we will choose the style of city we want," Díaz said. "All other male candidates running for mayor share the common proposal of putting an end to all [this council] has achieved."

'Red Belt' or 'Purple Belt'

The battle for En Comú Podem, however, is not only to hold onto the mayorship of Barcelona but also to become the main political group in the area surrounding the Catalan capital, the 'red belt' which has been a historical stronghold for the Socialists.

In some cities, the Socialists have governed consistently ever since the return to democracy in 1979, as is the case in Sant Boi de Llobregat and in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, the second-most populous city in Catalonia, immediately south of Barcelona.  

Now, En Comú Podem wants to spread purple patches to this belt after the May 28 elections, and to keep the mayorships they already have: El Prat de Llobregat, south of the Catalan capital, and Montcada i Reixac to in the north.