“People were very surprised that [Valls] made such a move,” says Xavier Cuadras of the Pompeu Fabra University.
He does not believe the ex-PM, whose career has so far been devoted to French politics, has much chance of being elected to lead the Catalan capital.
“He is mainly seen as a political opportunist and he’s taking advantage of the problem we have now in Barcelona, in Catalonia in general of independence," Cuadras comments. "And he is trying to get all those voters that think that he is going to stand against independence."
Valls has the support of centre-right party Ciudadanos, the leading opposition in the Catalan parliament where pro-independence parties have a majority.
Valls’s anti-independence stance won’t go down well with the pro-independence regional government.
But officially there is no comment on Valls’s candidacy.
“He may run, he may not, he’s free to do that, we do not have an opinion on the local candidate," says Joan Pique, the official spokesperson of the Catalan government.
Independence stance to be decisive
The elections for the position of mayor will take place in May and the candidates’ position on the question of independence may tip the balance.
But some think Valls has placed too much importance on the question.
“He is very much opposed to it. Militantly opposed to it,” comments Cuadras.
“In fact this is the only feature of his candidacy so far. Basically he’s been very vocal about independence and on local issues he has emphasised the question of security. Although Barcelona is quite a safe city.”
One issue that has boosted support for independence is the amount of taxes Barcelona, and Catalonia as a whole, pay to the central government in Madrid.
Many voters feel the region pays more than its fair share.
So if Valls, with his stature as a statesman, is able to find a compromise here, he may attract more voters than the polls anticipate.