Valls urges unionist coalition to win Barcelona election
French ex-PM rules out joining Ciutadans to run for mayor
France's former prime minister Manuel Valls has called for a multi-party platform encompassing unionist forces to win Barcelona's local election next year, thus cooling down the possibility of him joining Ciutadans to run as the party's candidate for mayor.
"I haven't quit a party in France just to join another one," said Valls, born in Barcelona, in an interview with the Catalan public radio. The largest unionist party in Catalonia and winner of last December's election, Ciutadans recently confirmed that Valls had been offered to run in the 2019 election for Barcelona mayor.
"What I'm interested in is an open platform, not belonging to a single party," he said, adding that he is talking with "a lot of people from civil society, business heads, intellectuals."
"Nothing would be easier than facing candidates who neither know Barcelona or love the city"
Alfred Bosch · ERC leader in Barcelona
Valls has been extremely vocal against the independence bid in Catalonia. In the election last December, he appeared in campaign rallies of all unionist parties in Catalonia: Ciutadans, the Socialists and People's Party.
Valls served as president François Hollande’s executive head from 2014 to 2016, having previously served as minister of the interior. In 2017, he lost the Socialist primary for France’s presidential election to Benoît Hamon.
Yet Valls candidacy is not confirmed. "It's too early, I still need to think about it," he said, pledging to make a final decision before summer.
Barcelona: a local battlefield for national politics
Long considered a bulwark against the polarized independence debate at the national level, Barcelona and its local politics are set to become a political battlefield for pro-independence and unionist parties next year.
Alfred Bosch, the leader in Barcelona of pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party, diminished the importance of Valls' bid for office. "Nothing would be easier than facing candidates who neither know Barcelona or loves the city," he said.
Jordi Graupera, a professor at Princeton University who recently urged pro-independence parties to unite in a joint candidacy to secure Barcelona's local government, said that Valls would be a "rival worth defeating," and dismissed him as an example of "the very worst of France's authoritarianism."
Miquel Iceta, the Socialist leader in Catalonia, warned that Valls' bid for office could be counterproductive for unionist forces, as it may galvanize pro-independence parties into presenting a joint candidacy.