Read in Catalan

Former French prime minister Manuel Valls, pushed aside from our neighbour's politics by Emmanuel Macron as a nuisance to his regenerative movement, is starting to give clues to the real aim of his announced candidacy for mayor of Barcelona which, he says, is nothing other than to lead a pro-union platform involving all parties that lean that way to conquer the Catalan capital. The initial move by Ciudadanos' leader Rivera, wanting to snap him up for the party, was, it seems, merely opportunistic, as Valls is now suggesting that he hasn't left the French PS to move to another party. Oh such haste!

Barcelona is becoming interesting, very interesting, as a laboratory for new formulas which would reduce the number of electoral candidacies and lead to a fight between great political blocs. Manuel Valls's move, well-supported politically, economically and by the media, most likely expects a response before the summer from the three pro-union parties, Ciudadanos, PSC and PP. The response from Rivera's party is known full well. We can sense that PP's answer won't be negative. And PSC? The pill offered by Manuel Valls is bitter, more so for their candidate, Jaume Collboni, than for their leader, Miquel Iceta. But it's also certain that 2018's PSC can swallow something like this much more calmly than before. Firmly siding with article 155, active participant in all Societat Civil Catalana's demonstrations and clearly distanced from the pro-independence parties, the possibility of playing as a small kingmaker party in such a difficult election is not more attractive.

Valls's move should be most worrying for pro-independence Esquerra Republicana and PDeCAT, so far little interested in presenting a common front in Barcelona's municipal election and supporters of standing with the classic parties. A glance at the results obtained on 21st December in Barcelona should give them something to think about, since the three pro-union parties achieved 43.5% of the vote. Very far from the 20.91% for Esquerra and 19.56% for Junts per Catalunya. Even joining forces they only reach 40.47% of votes, which would rise to 45.76% with CUP. What's clear, moreover, is that the election would become a two-horse race and that mayor Ada Colau's party, Barcelona en Comú, would have little to do in such a polarised campaign. Of course, every election is different, but the results from last December shouldn't be disregarded.

Although time is short and Manuel Valls' plans are not definitive, the independence movement has to aspire to securing Catalonia's capital, a fundamental piece in a political project like the one they're aiming to carry out. The problems of the last four years are clear, without delving into other, not minor questions like the city of Barcelona's lack of pulse. Maybe Valls's announcement will act as a catalyst and not be so negative. He'll even have to be thanked if he breaks some of the resistance there has been so far for a much broader electoral project, allowing it to be overcome easier.