Municipal democracy in Spain’s ‘rebel cities’
Since the local elections in Spain in May of 2015, most of the country’s major cities have been governed by citizen platforms such as Barcelona en Comú (Barcelona in Common) and Ahora Madrid (Madrid Now). These platforms were created to bring together social movements, members of progressive political parties, and neighbourhood activists to win back and democratise their city halls. While the platforms in each city vary in composition and functioning, they share some common principles.
- First, they were set up in the belief that it is local politics, the politics that touches people’s daily lives, that is the best place to experiment with new forms of citizen participation and democratic regeneration.
- Second, they have sought to put shared policy objectives above the interests of participating organisations. This has allowed them to join forces and become more than the sum of their parts.
- Third, the platforms drew up their manifestos in an open, participatory way. This allowed them to demonstrate, before gaining office, that alternative ways of doing politics, by listening and collaborating, are possible.
- Finally, their representatives are subject to strict codes of ethics, including salary and term limits, designed to prevent the professionalisation of politics and ensure the accountability of those in office.
While the citizen platforms in Spain face numerous challenges (not least that of governing in minority or coalition) they are already inspiring citizens across the world to consider how new forms of municipalism could be constructed to change their own cities.