The radically democratic citizen platform Barcelona en Comú [won] the municipal elections in a major step forward for the struggle to reclaim the city.
The outcome of Sunday’s municipal and regional elections in Spain is shaking the country. Two activist women connected to grassroots movements and backed by the leftist party Podemos are likely to become the next mayors of Spain’s biggest cities — Madrid and Barcelona — while the ruling right-wing Popular Party has taken a drubbing in cities and regions across the country. Five years of austerity have finally taken their toll on the establishment’s grip on power, effectively shattering the old way of doing politics.
The victory of Barcelona en Comú (“Barcelona in Common,” formerly known as Guanyem) is particularly meaningful in this respect. Led by the 41-year-old anti-eviction campaigner Ada Colau, En Comú describes itself as a citizen platform and a confluence of various social movements and radical political groups. The platform aims to combine the objectives of ending austerity, halting evictions, expanding public housing, improving popular living standards, curbing mass tourism and reclaiming the urban commons with a strong commitment to direct democracy and a new bottom-up politics — transforming existing municipal institutions in line with the spirit of the 15-M movement.
For an indication of the historic significance of En Comú’s electoral victory, just consider the photo below, taken after an occupation by activists of the Platform for People Affected by their Mortgages (PAH) in 2012. That woman in the picture is Ada Colau, Barcelona’s new mayor and the cops’ new boss. In her victory speech last night, Colau pledged to “govern by obeying,” directly citing the Zapatista principle of popular self-governance from below.
En Comú will have the backing of the anti-capitalist and pro-independence Popular Unity Candidates (CUP), who also won big, gaining four seats in the city council. In addition to En Comú’s 11 seats, this will unfortunately still leave the two leftist forces short of a majority in the 41-seat council, requiring further negotiations with other groups in the days and weeks to come.