Ada Colau almost certain to be Barcelona’s new mayor

Left-leaning Colau can now be an activist in a position of power

Wiping tears from her eyes, Ada Colau, who is almost certain to be the new mayor of Barcelona, summed up her triumph in the city's election as she addressed her supporters on Sunday night.

“This is a victory for David over Goliath,” she said.

It was a fair appraisal by the 41-year-old, who was the candidate for Barcelona en Comú, a leftist platform that included the Podemos party.

Her one-seat winning margin over the powerful Convergence and Union (CiU) coalition of incumbent Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias was a stunning achievement.


Colau is now expected to gain the support of other left-leaning parties and become the city’s first female mayor.

"Ada Colau's secret is that she is still a person and not yet a 'personality'," said El País newspaper's Xavier Vidal-Folch.

That down-to-earth image is not just reflected by her genuine, unguarded emotion as her historic win on Sunday unfolded or her refusal to dress formally like other politicians. For several years she was the figurehead of the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH), a movement which has helped homeowners threatened by eviction.

Before that, she was involved in local activism, squatting in an empty Barcelona building for a time and demonstrating against Spain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq.

Her new job, therefore, will be a massive change for someone who is used to the role of outsider.

“It’s clear that our institutional framework isn’t made to resolve the most basic needs,” she told one interviewer last year. “The people are way ahead of their institutions.”

But besides her commitment to social justice, Colau's arrival as a political figure is seen as having another significance. Her defeat of the CiU nationalists is a blow to that coalition's campaign for Catalan independence from Spain. Although she has expressed support for an independence referendum, she will now face pressure to be more explicit about where she stands on the issue.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain