This unholy alliance between Collboni, Colau and Sirera makes chalk and cheese look positively homogenous
Last month’s article claimed the new Mayor of Barcelona would be Xavier Trias, who belongs to a centre-liberal party called Junts per Catalunya, (Together for Catalonia) normally abbreviated to Junts. After all, his list was the most voted one and he had the full support of Ernest Maragall’s party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Catalan Republican Left) aka ERC, whose five left-wing councillors added to Trias’s 11 would have given the latter a fairly strong minority government. Instead, The Catalan Socialist Party’s man, Jaume Collboni, was given the mayorship with the support of Ada Colau (the outgoing Mayor and leader of a left-wing formation called Barcelona en Comú) but also with the support of the Partido Popular’s four councillors, led by one Daniel Sirera. To explain why this surprised everyone and shocked not a few, it needs to be borne in mind that Collboni and Colau had run the city as a coalition until Collboni abandoned his seat several months ago to prepare his electoral campaign, a substantial part of which was dedicated to bad-mouthing Colau’s administration, even though he had been an active part of it for several years. So: no love lost there. But for the Partido Popular to give their support to Mr Collboni was even more unusual: this is an unabashedly right-wing party which is currently making pact after pact around Spain with the ultra-right formation Vox (which is anti-abortion, opposed to improved legislation on domestic violence and fanatically Catholic-nationalist, among other things). This unholy alliance between Collboni, Colau and Sirera makes chalk and cheese look positively homogenous. So how did it come to pass? The answer my friends, is blowing on Madrid’s meseta, where a day before the expected investiture of Trias, the national coordinator of the PP, Elías Bendodo, phoned Santos Cerdán, the secretary general of the Spanish Socialist Party (to which Collboni’s Catalan Socialist Party is affiliated) and offered the votes of the four PP councillors in Barcelona, which, together with Colau’s votes, would be enough to make Collboni Mayor. The reason for such urgency is that both Junts and ERC are pro-independence and the very thought that ‘Spain’s second city’ might fall into the hands of Catalan secessionists sends shivers of horror down the spines of the powers that be. We know this, because four years ago, Maragall’s ERC won the Barcelona elections outright, but was prevented from taking office when Colau (under heavy pressure from central government, she claimed, weeping, in a radio interview) accepted the votes of the shady, opportunist, right-leaning independent councillor Manuel Valls in order to become Mayor. And four years before that, when Trias was Mayor and Colau his rival (and a referendum for independence was just two years away) the state’s chief cloak-and-dagger factotum, the now notorious policeman José Manuel Villarejo, planted a false report in El Mundo newspaper claiming that Trias had 12 million illegal euros stashed away in a Swiss bank: Colau used this lie in her campaign against him and won.
So Spain, at least as far as Catalonia is concerned, is one of those democracies that moves the goal posts whenever the ‘wrong’ people win an election. After being told just one hour before his expected investiture that he had been pipped to the post by an electoral sleight of hand, Trias came out with an expression that has since become something of a catchphrase in parts of Catalonia: ‘Que us bombin a tots!’, a rough translation of which would be ‘You can all go to hell!’. Which, given the circumstances, sounds unnecessarily mild.