Last Sunday’s local election result in which the pro-independence Esquerra party (ERC) candidate, Ernest Maragall, narrowly beat the leftwing Barcelona en Comú party (BComú) of incumbent mayor, Ada Colau, begs the question of who will now rule in the Catalan capital.

A coalition of the two parties seemed a foregone conclusion given their similar progressive leanings, but the offer by unionist candidate, Manuel Valls (independent candidate supported by center-right unionist Ciutadans), to back Colau “without conditions” to prevent Maragall becoming mayor has thrown the cat among the pigeons.

The ERC candidate has said that such an arrangement between Colau and Valls would be “unbelievable” and “grotesque” and Maragall insisted that him becoming mayor is the “logical conclusion” of the talks that his party held with Colau’s this week.

Yet, it may not be such an unbelievable scenario as the prospective mayor might think, as also on Friday, the Socialist party (PSC) candidate, Jaume Collboni, said he could envision a ruling PSC-BComú coalition with Colau as mayor, with occasional support from Valls.

A political game of musical chairs 

The political game of musical chairs in the Catalan capital mirrors the larger conflict in Cataloniabetween the pro-independence and unionist parties, with the latter keen to avoid Barcelona falling into the hands of a party that is firmly committed to splitting from Spain.

Collboni, for example, insisted that the local election results did not show a clear victory for the pro-independence camp, as ERC did not win a clear majority of seats and some 60% of voters in the Catalan capital voted for non-independence supporting parties.

Unlikely alliance Colau-Valls?

With a mayor due to be invested on June 15, the parties have two weeks to come to an arrangement. Colau’s party says: “We have not begun any talks with Mr Valls nor we do we intend to,” but neither has the party completely ruled the option out.

What BComú has ruled out “under any circumstances” is an agreement with the also pro-independence Junts per Catalunya party (JxCat), which as an anti-eviction activist leader Colau opposed when the party was previously in government in Barcelona.

While Colau’s voters would look down on an understanding with the centre-right Ciutadans party (Cs), which backed Valls’ candidacy, Collboni’s scenario could be enticing to BComú, which is set to have talks with PSC to explore “a common roadmap that puts the city first.”