Ernest Maragall's path to become mayor of Barcelona could be far trickier than ERC thought on Sunday night after their historic triumph in the municipal election, which gives them, in theory, the possibility of governing the capital of Catalonia, something which hasn't happened since 1939. The fact that the current mayor, Ada Colau, should be promoting, actively or passively, a school of thought that they shouldn't discount reaching an agreement with Jaume Collboni's PSC and with the Ciudadanos list headed by Manuel Valls has shaken up the hours of the post-election hangover. As many as four elements have contributed to fueling this possibility: firstly, Colau's change of direction with respect to her political future and the steps she's started to take after Sunday's defeat. Whilst in the hours following her defeat she congratulated Maragall and, with a certain air of farewell, talked of the honour of having been the first female mayor of Barcelona, this Monday, theatrically, and criticising Maragall, she dialed back and said that now it's time to talk about government plans and left-wing policies with ERC and PSC, rejecting dialogue with JxCat and even going with Maragall to Soto del Real prison to visit Quim Forn. Only when there's an agreement between those she understands by "the left" will they talk about possible mayors, she says.
Secondly, there's the forcefulness with which Miquel Iceta has said, in name of PSC, he'll do everything possible for there to not be a pro-independence mayor in Barcelona. The arguments from the campaign appear to be already in some filing cabinet, likewise the annoyance Collboni had expressed towards Colau since she pushed PSC out from her governing team in the city council. Certainly, what happened to the party's first secretary's candidacy to be speaker of the Senate, blocked by pro-independence parties in the Catalan Parliament, is still at the front of his mind. As is a sentence heard among the party's leadership during those days: "You won't get away with this for free".
Thirdly, the strange rhetoric within the ranks of En Comú which doesn't count out a pact with Ciudadanos. Finally, comments from the former French prime minister Manuel Valls warning that he'll break with Cs if it ends up reaching an agreement with Vox in Madrid, where the far-right party's are essential to out the left from the town hall and to hold onto the autonomous community. Arithmetically, Valls' support would give Colau an absolute majority in an investiture debate, indispensable for her to oust the winner, Ernest Maragall. Colau's ten, PSC's eight and Valls' six would be 24 votes, three more than the 21 needed. It's an option which, a priori, doesn't appear easy to go for and which many influential sectors of the city wouldn't look on with particular pleasure, since they recognise in Maragall an opportunity for dialogue they haven't enjoyed with Colau over the last four years. Four years during which, moreover, the city has been falling into progressive decline in terms of image and influence.
We'll have to wait a few days to see how much bluffing there is in the moves that have been made in Barcelona and what exchanges are being put on the table. One of the defining characteristics of the municipal chess board is that there's a lot of power at stake: as well as Barcelona there are the four provincial deputations and several dozen important cities where the pacts could fall in one direction or the other depending on how each political party plays its cards. The voters have voted, now the work in the offices begins.