CATALAN POLITICS

Former French PM Manuel Valls set to run for mayor of Barcelona

Ciudadanos has backed the nomination, which is due to be confirmed on Tuesday in the Catalan capital

Manuel Valls at a pro-unity event in Palma de Mallorca.
Manuel Valls at a pro-unity event in Palma de Mallorca.LLITERES / EFE

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called a press conference for Tuesday to confirm whether he plans to run for mayor of Barcelona in 2019.

Born in the Catalan capital and raised in France, the 56-year-old politician has been a vocal and high-profile opponent of the secessionist movement in recent months.

Valls originally threw around the idea of creating a platform of “constitutionalist” parties

Rumors that he might join the mayoral race have been circulating since April, when he was asked by Ciudadanos, a center-right anti-independence party that won the most seats at the last Catalan regional election in December 2017, to be their candidate.

Valls posted a message on social media on Friday with the single word “Barcelona” under a photograph of his feet on the city’s characteristic pavement tiles. Hours later, newsrooms received an invitation to an event this Tuesday at the Barcelona Contemporary Cultural Center (CCCB), where Valls will reportedly announce his final decision.

If confirmed, his nomination will represent an electoral earthquake in a city where the battle to defeat the incumbent will be tough. On Friday, Mayor Ada Colau asked all parties and candidates to “think about the city.”

The national leadership of Ciudadanos appears confident that Valls will make a bid for office. On Friday, party leader Albert Rivera said: “I know that he wants to, and that he wants to make changes in the city.”

“It is an ambitious and generous candidacy,” added Rivera, whose party can provide the kind of air time, financial support and presence at debates that Valls would need.

In April of this year, Valls said that he was considering a run for the Barcelona mayor’s office, and he began meeting with business, cultural and civic leaders to get a sense of how his nomination would be viewed.

Valls originally threw around the idea of creating a platform of “constitutionalist” parties to run together against a potential coalition of secessionist parties in the local race next year. But the Catalan Socialist Party, which also opposes independence, did not back the idea.

Valls, who was born in Barcelona in 1962, has held public office at all levels of French government. As a member of the French Socialist Party he was a regional deputy, the mayor of Evry, interior minister and prime minister of France between 2014 and 2016. After losing the party primary to become the Socialist nominee to the French presidency, in June 2017 he successfully ran as an independent for the National Assembly.

English version by Susana Urra.

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