Catalonia, one year later

Catalonia’s president leads pro-independence demonstrators in Barcelona
July 14, 2018: Catalan President Quim Torra (1R) joins protesters demanding the release of pro-independence leader Oriol Junqueras (pictured on banner) from prison (source: dpa)
  • Both the pro- and anti-independence coalitions in Catalonia are weak and split
  • This has created a hard-to-break political impasse that is damaging the economy
  • More stalemate seems likely, unless pro-independence moderates align with unionists

Late last summer, former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced that he was running for mayor of Barcelona in the May 2019 municipal elections. The son of a Catalan father and a Swiss mother, he was born in the city, though he has lived almost his entire life in France.

Rather than running on a party ticket, he explicitly sought the support of all non-pro-independence parties left of the Popular Party (PP). The strongest party in Catalonia and fourth-largest in Spain, Ciudadanos (Citizens), decided to support him.

Mr. Valls’ decision has thrown into turmoil an already unstable Catalan political scene, still reeling from the events of last year. The election results in Barcelona – a powerful economic engine and home to more than 20 percent of the region’s population – could potentially help reshape local politics. Given Catalonia’s current political impasse, such an impulse is certainly needed.

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