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Catalonia’s Town Councils To Be Constituted For 2023-2027 Term Amid Political Party Agreements

Parties work to finalize governance deals in key municipalities; disagreements prevent pro-independence unity in some areas

With less than 24 hours left until the more than 940 town councils in Catalonia are constituted for the 2023-2027 term, the political parties are working against the clock to finalize governance deals in several key municipalities around the country. 

However, while work continues on resolving these unknowns in some cities and towns, the rest of the map is beginning to be coloured in by the different parties that will assume mayoralties. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) was the winner of the municipal elections in terms of votes, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) prevailed in terms of the total number of councillors won and Together for Catalonia (Junts) was the party that came first in the most municipalities around the country.

Spanish acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks during the investiture debate at the Spanish Parliament on July 22, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. Since the day after the elections – when Pedro Sanchez announced that he was bringing forward the Spanish general election, which were due at the end of the year, to July 23rd – the parties have been piecing together council agreements of very diverse types throughout Catalan territory. PABLO BLAZQUEZ DOMINGUEZ/GETTY IMAGES

Since the day after the elections – when Pedro Sánchez announced that he was bringing forward the Spanish general election, which were due at the end of the year, to July 23rd – the parties have been piecing together council agreements of very diverse types throughout Catalan territory. 

Despite the call made by both the Republican Left and Junts on May 29th to embrace pro-independence unity and prioritize understanding between the two groups, the reality – once again – has been different and the disagreements that exist in some municipalities between the parties have made it impossible to put into practice the ‘common front‘ slogan. 

Nevertheless, pro-independence pacts have indeed reached large cities such as Barcelona (where Xavier Trias and Ernest Maragall have signed an agreement to govern together) and Girona (where Junts and Esquerra have agreed to form a joint government with Guanyem, the left-wing grouping led by the CUP’s Lluc Salellas), but in other smaller cities (Manresa, Blanes, Sitges, Tàrrega, Roses and Montblanc), Junts-ERC deals have not been achieved. And the great beneficiaries of this disunity have been the Catalan Socialists, who have become partners of Junts in many places and of ERC in many others in Catalonia.

On election night, May 28th, some parts of Catalonia went to bed already knowing who their mayor for the 2023-2027 mandate would be. Among cities of more than 20,000 people where the winning party achieved an absolute majority, Badalona stands out (the PP’s controversial Xavier García Albiol won 18 councillors out of the 27 in the council), Sabadell (PSC), Santa Coloma de Gramenet (PSC), Cornellà de Llobregat (where Antonio Balmón, of the PSC, despite having more councillors than the rest of the groups combined, reached an agreement with the Comuns), Sant Boi de Llobregat (PSC), Granollers (PSC), Cerdanyola del Vallès (PSC) , Figueres (Junts), Esplugues de Llobregat (PSC), Sant Adrià del Besòs (PSC), Sant Joan Despí (PSC), Sant Pere de Ribes (PSC), Martorell (Junts), Pineda de Mar (PSC), Castellar del Vallès (PSC), Vila-seca (Junts), Amposta (ERC) and Banyoles (Junts).

In the Barcelona metropolitan area, there are also absolute majorities in Badia del Vallès (PSC), la Palma de Cervelló (Junts) and Tiana (local grouping Together for Tiana). If we take a look at the county capitals, Vielha e Mijaran (PSC), Moià (ERC), Tremp (PSC) and Falset (ERC) can be added to the list of absolute majorities.

Map showing county capitals, cities of more than 20,000 residents and metropolitan area towns. Those coloured in have mayoral leadership decided; hover over dot to see details. 

Beyond the absolute majorities, numerous councils will meet for the first time on Saturday with councillors already knowing who is going to be mayor as a result of accords that make it possible. In Terrassa, Jordi Ballart will repeat the mayoralty thanks to an agreement between ERC and Junts. 

In Reus, the PSC will lead the council accompanied by ERC and PDeCAT. The scenario has also been clarified in Girona, where Lluc Salellas (Guanyem) will be mayor from this Saturday and will form an executive with Junts and ERC, despite the PSC being the largest party. There are also agreements closed in Manresa (ERC will have the mayoral office following a pact with the PSC and Impulsem), Vilanova i la Geltrú (the PSC will lead the council with the Comuns), Castelldefels (the PP regains control with the support of Som Castelldefels), Sant Feliu de Llobregat (the Socialists hold the council again thanks to Junts and Veïns for Sant Feliu), Blanes (PSC mayor with Junts and Grup Blanes in government) and Tortosa (Jordi Jordan, from Movem Tortosa-PSC, ousts Meritxell Roigé and allies with ERC and the CUP).

In county capitals, there are agreements in Balaguer (the PSC will share an executive with the PDeCAT), Valls (Junts and ERC pact), La Bisbal d’Empordà (between PSC, Junts and Tots per la Bisbal), La Pont de Suert (executive of Tothom and the Socialists), el Vendrell (the PSC will have the mayoralty thanks to two votes from the PP), Puigcerdà (Junts, with Futur Puigcerdà), Montblanc (as government of ERC, PDeCAT and Despertem Poble), les Borges Blanques (alliance of Borges per la República and ERC), Olot (Junts returns with the help of ERC), Sort (ERC will govern alone with the abstention of Gent de Poble), Cervera (PSC-Junts), Santa Coloma de Farners (Junts will share an executive with Independents de la Selva) and Tàrrega (ERC, CUP and the PSC will repeat their government).

Towns where the most voted list will not govern, and Junts-ERC disputes 

At the same time, it is worth noting the cities where the list with the most votes will not get to rule. Such is the case of Girona, les Franqueses del Vallès (Junts won, but the PSC, ERC and Comuns will govern), les Borges Blanques, Puigcerdà, Tàrrega, Ametlla de Mar (ERC prevailed on May 28th, but the government will be held by Junts and the PSC), Montblanc, el Bruc (the victory was for ERC, but the mayor will be from Junts with the PSC), Roses (ERC won, but a pact between the PSC, Junts and Gent del Poble prevents it from ruling) and Cambrils (PSC, ERC, Junts i Comuns joined together to take power from the winner, Nou Moviment Ciutadà).

In some of these municipalities, division between Junts and ERC can be clearly seen, since one of the pro-independence parties has colluded to prevent the mayoralty of the other. But there is also a list of towns where the two could both have reached power if they have chosen to come together, but didn’t, such as Reus, Manresa, Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Blanes, la Garriga (Junts will govern with the PSC), Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (ERC will share an executive with the Comuns), Llançà (alliance of Junts and PSC), Torredembarra (ERC has done a deal with the PSC), Móra la Nova (agreement between ERC and the PSC), Palamós (again, agreement between ERC and the PSC), Calonge i Sant Antoni (agreement between Junts, PSC and PP ), Vilafant (a PSC, Junts and Ciudadanos deal) and Lloret de Mar (there will be a PSC government with Junts and Collons).

The scenarios where doubts remain: Barcelona, Ripoll…

A few hours before the council constituent meetings, question marks still hang over some cities. In fact, one of the largest affects Catalonia’s capital and largest city, Barcelona. The agreement between Trias and Maragall gives the former 16 votes for the investiture, but he still lacks five for the majority that would make it certain. Even so, the Trias for Barcelona candidate will become mayor as the leader of the most voted list unless there is an alternative majority, that would have to reach 21 votes. Right now, the candidacy of Jaume Collboni seems to have its back to the wall in this regard: the PP and the Comuns, both necessary partners in the deal, mutually exclude each other .

ERC candidate for mayor of Barcelona, Ernest Maragall (left), and former mayor of Barcelona and Junts candidate for mayor, Xavier Trias (right), during the presentation of the PRO BCN 2023 project at the historic Llotja de Mar building in Barcelona, on March 3, 2023, in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The agreement between Trias and Maragall gives the former 16 votes for the investiture, but he still lacks five for the majority that would make it certain. DAVID ZORRAKINO/EUROPA PRESS VIA GETTY IMAGES 

Another key focus will be in the north of Catalonia, in Ripoll. The winner was Sílvia Orriols (Aliança Catalana). ERC, the PSC and the CUP reached an agreement to prevent a far-right government, but the votes of Junts (which came second) are needed for it to prosper. In the last few days, Junts has announced its intention to seek the mayoralty and has urged the “central forces” of the Ripollès capital – excluding the CUP – to support their candidate Manoli Vega for mayor. This lack of a clear understanding could mean that, at present, Orriols might have a better chance of reaching the mayoral office because there is no alternative majority that would add up.

There are other towns, too, where no deal has been done and the winners are entrusting their options of running the council on the fact of having been the most voted on 28th May. Such cases are L’Hospitalet, Lleida, Tarragona, Mataró (although the PSC is in contact with Junts and the Comuns to try to reach an agreement), Sant Cugat del Vallès (there are Junts contacts with ERC), Rubí , Viladecans, Vic (there is a Junts pact with PDeCAT, but it doesn’t reach the required majority), Igualada, Vilafranca del Penedès, la Seu d’Urgell (the PSC won, but Junts wants to try to reach an agreement with ERC and the CUP), Mollerussa (the PDeCAT has an agreement with the PSC, but it hinges on what Junts, ERC and the CUP might do together), Berga (the CUP seeks an agreement with ERC) and Solsona (in this case, it is ERC who are seeking the support of the CUP).

Produced in association with El Nacional En

Edited by Rachmad Imam Tarecha and Joseph Hammond

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