Read in Catalan

It's clear enough that Manuel Valls1 is an earthquake in the pre-campaign for the municipal election in Barcelona. That he's got enough experience and funding to be the rival to beat will be seen in the coming weeks and months. And a warning: those who tend to brush him aside given his failures in French politics recently will be mistaken. The now-candidate for mayor of Barcelona this Tuesday staged his launch in an austere event, without the presence of the world of money which is so generously funding his campaign and with a measured speech, carefully distanced from the norms of Ciudadanos and from its orthodoxy opposed to everything that's strictly Catalan. Friendly with Catalanism and the Catalan language, close to Pasqual Maragall2, who he said he's known for years, and a gendarme for the Barcelona which needs to end with the lack of security and the crime. A trio which appears to recall, in certain aspects, Josep Piqué, who came to triumph and failed when he faced the ballot box.

Valls, however, comes to the electoral fight with his back well covered. He has gathered around himself the greatest financial and media firepower any candidate for mayor has had in recent years. Probably since the golden years of Pasqual Maragall. Nothing like Joan Clos, Jordi Hereu, Xavier Trias or Ada Colau. He's got, oh, just the support of the two large private TV companies in Spain Atresmedia (channels Antena 3 and la Sexta) and Mediaset (Telecinco and Cuatro), the enthusiasm of La Vanguardia, the newspaper of the Catalan bourgeoisie, and a certain neutrality from El Periódico. He also enjoys the support, of little importance in practise, of the written Madrid press. With the former he will easily get into the most difficult neighbourhoods for a Ciudadanos candidate and with the latter he ensures himself news consistency in the upscale areas of the capital. A priori, a perfect combination. Likely lethal for a mayor going through hard times and who knows how high it sets the bar for the independence movement if it confronts the election excessively divided.

In any case, we'll have to see how the Valls fad stands up to an almost eight-month campaign with all the relevant candidates against him. At least, we won't be able to get a clear picture of how many parties will tackle the election until Christmas. In fact, what we've seen so far from many parties is more the expression of their wishes than absolute certainty over their final move. Nobody should be fooled: the surveys will end up deciding how many candidacies will fight for mayor. A different question is the rhetoric we will hear until the decisive moment.


Translator's note:

1. Yesterday, Tuesday 25th, former French prime minister Manuel Valls, who was born in the city, announced his intention to stand as a candidate for mayor of Barcelona.

2. Pasquall Maragall was president of Catalonia 2003-06. Before that, he had been mayor of Barcelona from 1982 to 1997, notably making him mayor at the time of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.