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Understanding Barcelona´s Local Government

Laura Place
Written by Laura Place

The Spanish government can be a little confusing, especially amidst recent pushes for Barcelona´s independence and so many political parties at play. But no matter how long the duration of your stay in Barcelona, it’s important to be aware of the system of government in place. In Barcelona, the Ayuntamiento is the reigning body that functions essentially as a city council. If you´re unfamiliar with how it works, we´ll help you gain a general understanding of its main players. Let´s start with Spain´s government for background.

Photo via CataloniaPress

Governmental structure of Spain
Spain is divided into 50 autonomous provinces, meaning they each operate under their own government. The province of Catalonia contains Girona, Tarragona, Lleida and Barcelona (the only other municipality besides Madrid with over 1 million people). The province is ruled by the regional government, the Catalan Parliament, which held snap regional elections in December 2017 when President Rajoy dissolved the parliament after they declared independence from Spain in October. The Ayuntamiento de Barcelona is the local municipal government of Barcelona that contains 10 municipal districts, organized by the well-known neighborhoods in the city.

Mayor Ada Colau – photo via Ayuntamiento de Barcelona

Local government
There are three main governmental bodies in the Ayuntamiento de Barcelona: the Municipal Council, the City Government Commission and the mayor, who is chair of both. The local government is organized at the Executive level and the Political level.
The Municipal Council is the city’s highest representative political body, made up of 41 city councillors who are further divided into municipal council committees, which deal with specific subjects that are then debated in council meetings. These committees are: economy and treasury; social rights, culture and sports; ecology, urban and mobility; and presidency, citizen rights, participation, security and prevention.
The Government Commission acts as an executive body of City Council and makes final decisions regarding municipal actions and budgets (after City Council approves them). It is composed of 11 members, including the mayor, Deputy Mayors and councillors.
Ada Colau is the current mayor of Barcelona. She was first elected in 2015 and is the first female mayor in the city´s history. She is part of the Barcelona en Comú party, which currently fills the most seats in City Council (11/41). There is also Grup Municipal Democràtica (9/41), Ciutadans-C´s (5/41), Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (5/41), Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (4/41), Partit Popular (3/41), CUP Capgriem Barcelona (3/41) and one unassigned councillor.

Click here to read more about prevalent political parties in Catalonia

Photo via Ayuntamiento de Barcelona

Municipal districts
Barcelona is divided into ten municipal districts that each have their own council, assigned to address and manage specific needs of each section. They are Ciutat Villa, Eixample, Sants-Montjuic, Les Corts, Sarria-Sant Gervasi, Gracia, Horta-Guinardo, Nou Barris, San Andreu    and Sant Marti. Read more about the council of your district.

When do these councils and commissions meet?
Great question! City Council meets once a month and the Government Commission meets every Thursday. You can find all their minutes and sessions online.

Municipal elections
Elections for city council are held every four years in Barcelona. The mayor is not elected by popular vote, but rather appointed via a vote among city councillors during their first term. The candidate must either win the absolute majority of councillor votes or be a candidate of the most-voted party.  The next municipal elections take place May 26, 2019.

To review, here is the simplified hierarchical structure of the city’s government:
City council (commissioners and district councils)
          Mayor (Ada Colau)
                Director of the Mayor, City Government Commision, Chief Executive’s Office

Do you have other questions about the government of Barcelona or things you´d still like to know? Tell us in the comments below.

Cover photo via RTVE.es

Understanding Barcelona´s Local Government
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About the author

Laura Place

Laura Place

American journalist living temporarily in Spain. Her passions include news and feature writing, Spanish language and culture and the outdoors.

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