Ex-French PM Manuel Valls to run for Barcelona mayor

Manuel Valls announces his bid to be mayor of Barcelona at the Centre De cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona on 25 September 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Valls has had a tumultuous relationship with French politics in recent years

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has announced his candidacy to be the mayor of Barcelona.

It is an unprecedented bid to stand for a significant political position in another European Union country.

Mr Valls was born in the Catalan city of Barcelona while his parents were on holiday there, but grew up in France. He has French and Spanish citizenship.

Mr Valls, 56, was the French prime minister between 2014 and 2016 under Socialist President François Hollande.

In his run to be mayor of Spain's second-largest city, Mr Valls will stand on an as-yet undefined anti-nationalist platform.

He has had a tumultuous relationship with French politics in recent years.

A combative interior minister and premier under Mr Hollande, he stood unsuccessfully to be the Socialist nominee for the 2017 French presidential election.

He later tried to switch sides and join Emmanuel Macron's centrist En Marche movement.

But Mr Macron rebuffed his bid to be prime minister.

The mayoral election will take place on 26 May 2019, with candidates vying to take on the current mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, a former housing and social rights activist.

A divisive candidate

"After a period of serious reflection, I have taken the following decision: I want to be the next mayor of Barcelona," Mr Valls said at an event in the Catalan capital.

Speaking in Catalan, he said he would resign his political responsibilities in France next week.

The leader of the Catalan anti-nationalist Citizens' party, Albert Rivera, thanked Mr Valls for announcing his candidacy - but it is not yet known whether he will stand as part of that party's platform.

"There's nobody better to recuperate the prestige of Barcelona and defeat separatism and populism at the ballot box," Mr Rivera said.

Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president who was removed from his position in 2017 after a referendum that was declared illegal, was critical of Mr Valls' candidacy.

"He's a candidate who doesn't know Barcelona, who's not known in Barcelona," Mr Puigdemont told the AFP news agency in Brussels, where he currently resides, under threat of a Spanish arrest warrant.

Opinions on the streets were similarly divided.

"I don't know what he's coming here for," Laura Bozzo, a retiree, told AFP from in front of Barcelona's city hall. "I reckon that as no-one wants him in France, he's coming to Barcelona."

But bank employee David Centellas disagreed, saying that Mr Valls' "international recognition can improve Barcelona's image".

More on this story