BARCELONA (Reuters) – Former French prime minister Manuel Valls said on Tuesday he would run for mayor of Barcelona, the first time a high-profile European politician has entered a major election in another country and a risky political bid for him.
Valls was born in Barcelona in 1962 to a Catalan father and Swiss-Italian mother but raised in France. He has spent all his political career in France – as a mayor, a member of the National Assembly, a minister and the head of the government.
Following his failed run for French president, he has spent a growing part of his time in Spain, where he has been campaigning against Catalonia’s secession drive.
Valls, who was French prime minister under former Socialist President Francis Hollande, said in a speech, delivered in Catalan, Spanish and French on Tuesday, that he would run in Barcelona on an independent platform.
Centre-right party Ciudadanos, which won a regional election in Catalonia last year and has been leading the anti-secession movement, had previously said they would back Valls.
A GAD3 opinion poll published in June showed Ciudadanos was expected to win only 10 seats in the 41-strong city council in Barcelona’s next election, due in May 2019.
It is not clear what the chances are for Valls to secure the backing of other groups and, if he did, whether this would be enough to reach a majority and be elected mayor.
Valls did not say whether losing the election would spell the end of his political career, though he said he would abandon all political mandates in France so that he can fully focus on the Barcelona vote.
(Reporting by Sam Edwards and Jesus Aguado; Writing by Julien Toyer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)