Junts' battle to retake Barcelona's mayorship and win across Catalonia

Former mayor Xavier Trias aims to make a comeback as party wants to retain Girona and inland county capitals

Trias per Barcelona mayor candidate Xavier Trias during an electoral campaign in the Catalan capital's Plaça de la Concòrdia square on May 16, 2023
Trias per Barcelona mayor candidate Xavier Trias during an electoral campaign in the Catalan capital's Plaça de la Concòrdia square on May 16, 2023 / Natàlia Segura
Gerard Escaich Folch

Gerard Escaich Folch | @gescaichfolch | Barcelona

May 18, 2023 05:50 PM

May 18, 2023 06:55 PM

The pro-independence party Junts per Catalunya, who quit the Catalan government in October 2022, plans to win the May 28 local elections in Barcelona and inland Catalonia, becoming the first group in the number of councilors across the territory.

However, to do so, they must beat the Socialists and former government partner Esquerra Republicana.

"The red color [in a clear reference to the Socialists] will not allow us to move forward, while the yellow one [Esquerra's corporate color] holds us back," party president Laura Borràs said the night before the local elections campaign started on May 12.

Of the 947 municipalities across Catalonia, Esquerra is running in 804 this year, while Junts stands in 728. Last time out, control was relatively even split, but with Junts coming out on top, 379 to 343.

But these results represented a huge growth for Esquerra, as in most of the post-millennium elections, the old Convergència party, forefathers to Junts, would routinely win double or more the number of councilors elected compared to Esquerra.

Junts' battle to retake Barcelona's mayorship, retain Girona and win in more towns than any other party across Catalonia / Gerard Escaich Folch/Maria Lyona

Junts' plan is to keep the lead in inland Catalonia and to do so, the group is focusing on the independence push but also firing complaints to both the Catalan and Spanish governments for the ongoing Rodalies commuter train service disruptions, the former under ERC's control and the latter run by the Socialists and anti-austerity Unidas Podemos.

"The train that is more delayed is the train that stops at 'Independence station,'" Borràs said during the campaign in a clear reference to the issues experienced by commuters the last weeks after the R2 South and R3 breakdowns.

"When Junts talks about the independence, we also refer to having a better Catalonia with good transport options and infrastructure, and not to continue with the ongoing rail problems we have," she added.

Backing former mayor Xavier Trias in Barcelona

For Junts to be the most voted group in Barcelona's plenary, the party called on the retired and former city mayor, Xavier Trias, who led the capital from 2011 to 2015, when he lost the elections against, at the time, the new politician and anti-austerity Barcelona en Comú candidate, Ada Colau.

Trias, who agreed to run once again, is doing so under the 'Trias per Barcelona' candidacy, which despite not showing Junts' logo, the slogan shares a similar corporate color palette with the pro-independence party.

In fact, when the announcement was made public, Junts increased and even doubled its numbers in polls, as in 2019, the party only got five seats, and now surveys predict the group could get up to more than ten representatives.

However, as their idea is to become the major force in Barcelona, Junts' main figures will "not ask what you [Trias] will do to win," jailed and pardoned secretary general Jordi Turull said on May 11.

He has been able to include members of the PDeCat party, another of the groups formed once the old-time Convergència i Unió group split years ago, but also other politicians such as former foreign affairs minister Victòria Alsina.

But, while the candidate has been allowed to do a campaign following his own guidelines, he is well aware that he only returned to the front line in politics to be elected as mayor.

"You can be backed as mayor in the city's plenary if you are the most-voted candidate," Trias said during a press conference at the Catalan News Agency (ACN) headquarters on May 15.

"What I will not do, is not to be the most-voted party and try to be the mayor," he added in a reference to Ada Colau's 2019 deal with the Socialists and former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls to back her as mayor, instead of leaving the post to Esquerra Republicana's Ernest Maragall, who won in the number of votes.

Keeping top spot in Girona

A certain Carles Puigdemont was elected mayor of Girona in 2011, removing the Socialists from power after over three decades. 

The city in the north of Catalonia has since been ruled by liberal CiU and their successors Junts.  

In 2019, Marta Madrenas was elected mayor for a second term but is not standing for reelection, with former research and universities minister Gemma Geis the Junts candidate.  This could open a new battleground for Junts to retain the top spot in the northern city as the Socialists slipped to third in 2019, behind left-wing pro-independence Guanyem Girona. 

Junts' new candidate, if most voted, will still have to fight for the top spot as Guanyem Girona, PSC, and ERC could join forces in ousting the successor of CiU from the mayorship.