Socialist Jaume Collboni appointed Barcelona mayor after last-minute plot twist

Left-wing BComú and conservative PP back left-leaning candidate, barring election winner from top spot

Socialist Jaume Collboni after being appointed the new Barcelona mayor on June 17, 2023
Socialist Jaume Collboni after being appointed the new Barcelona mayor on June 17, 2023 / Victòria Rovira

Guifré Jordan / Gerard Escaich Folch | Barcelona

June 17, 2023 05:47 PM

June 17, 2023 08:53 PM

Socialist Jaume Collboni was appointed the new Barcelona mayor on Saturday evening after a last-minute plot twist in a very nerve-wracking session. The candidate, who served as deputy mayor in the past term, saw anti-austerity Barcelona en Comú and conservative People's Party backing his bid for the top spot. All three groups ensure a majority of 23 out of the 41 newly elected seats in the council.

The move saw the mayoral bid of the election winner, Xavier Trias, running for Trias per Barcelona and backed by pro-independence Junts, frustrated. During the ceremony, Trias was clearly disappointed, as he had expected to see his candidacy being successful.

Collboni was backed by the nine councilors of the outgoing mayor Ada Colau's party and the four councilors of the People's Party under Daniel Sirera's leadership.

Barcelona's city council investiture plenary on June 17, 2023
Barcelona's city council investiture plenary on June 17, 2023 / Victòria Rovira

Just 45 minutes before the session was due to start and after uncertainty ever since the election took place on May 28, Colau's BComú announced they would back Collboni and stay in opposition, paving the way to the Socialist bid.

"The decision has been made in order to avoid a Junts government which places red carpets to lobbies and sectors in favor of right-wing policies," the group said in a statement.

Yet, Collboni needed not only his councilors and En Comú's but also the People's Party's support – the conservatives have been saying in the past few days that they will back the Socialist as long as Colau's group stays in opposition, which is the case. Subsequently, in the end, they ensured to enable him as mayor.

Pro-independence election winner barred from mayorship for second term in a row

The rare support of the People's Party to their traditional foe, the Socialists, aims to block a mayor in favor of a Catalan Republic.

76-year-old nationalist Trias will not have a second mandate after his 2011-2015 stint in power.

In 2019, a pro-independence mayorship was also frustrated when the election winner, Esquerra's Ernest Maragall, saw how Colau, the Socialists, and former French prime minister Manuel Valls' group voted together for the reelection of the former.

Cheers and boos in a nail-biting session

Around 20 minutes past 5 pm, the time the investiture session was planned to start, the different political groups entered the room accompanied by local Guàrdia Urbana police.

While some were cheered and welcomed by guests in the historic Saló de Cent of the city hall, where the event took place, others were booed.

Xavier Trias, and the group he leads, the first ones to enter the room, were heavily welcomed. However, Jaume Collboni and his team did not enjoy such a welcome. A similar scene was felt when Colau entered the site. 

The Socialist Barcelona mayoral candidate, Jaume Collboni, during the opening session of the 2023-2027 term
The Socialist Barcelona mayoral candidate, Jaume Collboni, during the opening session of the 2023-2027 term / Victòria Rovira

In the beginning, she was applauded by some of her supporters, but those against her policies quickly made their voices heard. 

The last-minute plot twist may have driven these reactions.

Housing crisis: top priority for mayor Collboni

Shortly after being sworn in, Collboni said that he has the "honest intention to become the mayor of all residents" in his first speech.

"I will take on the role of mayor with the utmost determination, energy, and conviction, being fully aware of what residents voted for and the support that made my investiture possible. And with all my will, I want to be everybody's mayor," he said.


Without commenting explicitly on the last-minute drama ahead of his election, including the conservatives backing him, he added that tackling the housing crisis will be the top priority during this term.

"Barcelona will be the first city to apply the Spanish housing law," referring to the piece of legislation passed by Spain in April, which caps rent increases.

Also, according to him, the Catalan capital has to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change, a green transition, and the "technological justice" across the globe - Collboni also aims for the city to lead the economy of Catalonia, Spain and southern Europe, with a boost in new technologies.

"We have to believe in Barcelona again," he said.

One of his first messages was also words of support for the Ukrainian people, both still residing in Eastern Europe and those seeking refuge in Barcelona.

"Barcelona will always be by your side," Collboni expressed.

Xavier Trias: It has been a magic trick

The most voted mayor candidate, Xavier Trias, who was expected to be the next mayor until the last minute, heavily addressed the audience after being barred from the top spot.

"These last days, I have discovered who you can reach deals with," he said, referring to Ernest Maragall, who hugged him after the speech as both reached a "joint deal to manage the city."

The operation that took place today, Trias said, "is not a coincidence."

"It is the third time that this has happened," he added, talking about the situation seen in 2015 when fake reports were published about an alleged bank account hidden in Switzerland and regarding the 2019's scene seen when Maragall lost the mayorship after a deal.

Stripping the mayorship post from the most voted party "is a magic trick," he added.

Xavier Trias during the investiture plenary on June 17, 2023
Xavier Trias during the investiture plenary on June 17, 2023 / Victòria Rovira

Trias, however, started his speech by saying it was an "honor to be an elected councilor, but the speech I planned in giving was as mayor, but I am not a mayor…" he said before leaving a long pause.

"But local elections are like this," he said, saying that sometimes you win or lose. "There are people who do not know how to lose in dignity," he said while looking at Colau, adding, "I am not saying names, but I am staring at them."

Colau denies any 'secret agreement' with Socialists

In her speech, the outgoing mayor, Ada Colau, denied having reached any "secret agreement" with the Socialists in exchange for her votes, and argued that her last-minute decision aimed to block the return of Xavier Trias – the comments sparked some disapproving whispers among part of the crowd.

"We have completely different models," she said, adding that during Trias' stint, "there was open doors for speculation, tourism massification, disinvestment in public transport, and oblivion of the lower income neighborhoods."

Colau also said that while she will be in opposition, easing Collboni's appointment was made "with no enthusiasm" and as the only way to work for a "future left-wing coalition" with the mayor's party, her political force and pro-independence Esquerra.

"It is impossible to govern with only 10 councilors," she warned to his successor.

Ernest Maragall: city will remember

In a speech similar to the one seen after being barred from the electoral post in 2019, Ernest Maragall from Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya warned Collboni that the city "will not make it easy for him, as the city will not allow this spectacle." Those words were heavily applauded by the public, who also stand to do for an ovation by the public.

"This plenary session has no relationship with Barcelona, neither between right or left parties. It is all related to power. Cold power, weeded," Maragall said.

Today, citizens have seen "an unworthy spectacle against the city, a deal against the city that the residents wanted," Maragall added.

The leader of Esquerra had closed a deal with Xavier Trias, which supporters of both parties heavily backed. After seeing the agreement break because of the vote result, Maragall thanked his time negotiating with the most-voted candidate during the local elections on May 28.

People's Party: we have avoided both a pro-independence mayor and Colau in government

After Collboni's election, the People's Party leader, Daniel Sirera, he said he has "complied" with their electoral promises, including not backing either a pro-independence candidate or the outgoing mayor, Ada Colau.

"Backing the Socialists has not been easy, and we have done it beyond our partisan or electoral interests, but for the interests of Barcelona," he said.

Daniel Sirera, People's Party candidate for Barcelona mayor speaking after giving support to Socialist Jaume Collboni on June 17, 2023
Daniel Sirera, People's Party candidate for Barcelona mayor speaking after giving support to Socialist Jaume Collboni on June 17, 2023 / Victòria Rovira

Sirera urged the Socialist to attract international investment and talent, as well as to revert some of the most significant policies led by Colau, including the moratorium in allowing the construction of more hotels, the refusal of expanding Barcelona's airport, "the tourismophobia and the support to squatters."

The conservative councilor also called on Collboni to not repeat the shared government he had with Colau in the past term but now with roles changed.

Far-right Vox: making history

The latest years of politics "have made this city an enemy of families, businesses," Ignacio González de Oro-Pulido, leader of far-right Vox, said during his first speech as a councilor in Barcelona.

"The city does not recognize itself, it has forgotten who it is and its way of doing," he added after saying that the pro-independence leaders and the left-wing parties have "destroyed a city that used to be the envy of Europe."

With these words, González de Oro-Pulido marked the first steps of the far-right in the city council since the restoration of democracy.