Ex-French PM will run to be new mayor of Barcelona

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has launched his campaign to be the new mayor of Barcelona. (El País, in Spanish) Valls, who was born in the second-biggest Spanish city 56 years ago, made his run official after months of rumors. He will stand for election on May 26, 2019, on an as-yet undefined anti-nationalist platform supported by center-right Ciudadanos party.

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Valls was France’s prime minister between 2014 and 2016 under Socialist President François Hollande and last year he backed Emmanuel Macron’s centrist En Marche movement. During his speech in an overcrowded cultural center in Barcelona on September 25, (El Diario, in Spanish) Valls declared himself “a left-wing man” – in spite of Ciudadanos’ support – as well as “an independent candidate.”

Dr. Andrew Dowling, senior lecturer of Catalan and Spanish History at Cardiff University, told WikiTribune that the new candidate “will have to face Ada Colau [the current mayor representing the populist Podemos party] and the independence parties, so that it will be very difficult for him to become mayor.” Dowling added that “it is unlikely that he will have any allies, so there is no real route to him becoming mayor.”

On Tuesday Valls said: “Our Barcelona won’t have more enemies but poverty, unemployment and lack of security. I want to be everyone’s mayor, the mayor of a new Barcelona.” He described “Barcelona and Europe as an antidote to populism.”

Valls’ recent appearances in Catalonia have been linked to anti-nationalist protests or movements. “The independence of Catalonia would mean the end of Europe,” (OK Diario, in Spanish) he said on September 27 2017.

Dowling said that “his candidacy will seek to capitalize the current polarization so he will contribute to further tensions”. The support of Ciudadanos may also contribute to this said Dowling, as the movement is trying “to attract new voters with the Socialists and the PP [right-wing Partido Popular] recovering.” Dowling said that “Ciudadanos’ moment has passed in Spain.”

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One of the principal criticisms of Valls’ candidature is the fact that he developed his political career in France, remote from Catalan issues. In his campaign announcement, he highlighted childhood memories in Barcelona and reminded the audience that a cousin of his father – also named Manuel Valls – wrote the music to Barcelona football club’s anthem. “His problem will be to convey to lifelong residents of Barcelona that he understands their problems and the issues that confront them,” said Dowling.

Valls has also received criticism in France, due to the fact that he is still a member of the National Assembly there. Nevertheless, he announced on Tuesday that he will resign and leave all “public responsibilities” to focus on the mayoral campaign in Barcelona.

Questions to answer on Valls’ candidacy:

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