LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Slovenia elected its first black mayor on Sunday, an immigrant from Africa known as the “Obama of Piran,” the town where he lives.
In fact, Peter Bossman, a Ghana-born physician, could be the first black mayor elected anywhere in his region of Europe.
Bossman, who settled in this tiny Alpine nation in the 1970s to study medicine in what was then known as Yugoslavia, won a runoff election in the coastal town of Piran with 51.4 percent of votes, defeating Dr. Tomaz Gantar, the outgoing mayor.
The 54-year-old Bossman is a member of Slovenia’s governing Social Democrats. He runs a private practice and was previously a member of the Piran City Council.
Following the vote, he said he was “happy and proud.”
“I based my campaign on a dialogue and I think the dialogue has won,” he said.
Slovenia, a country of 2 million people, is located near Italy, Austria and Croatia and is a member of European Union and NATO. The vast majority of Slovenians are white and there are few immigrants. The few blacks who are seen in the country tend to be tourists.
Vlado Miheljak, a political analyst, said the vote in Piran was a test about whether Slovenia was “mature enough to elect a nonwhite political representative.”
No racial issues were raised during the campaign in Piran, where Bossman was nicknamed after President Barack Obama, the first African American to hold that office in the U.S. But he was criticized for not speaking fluent Slovene, the nation’s official language.
In an interview with Delo, a leading daily newspaper, Bossman said he has a friend who is a professor of Slovenian “and she offered to give me additional lessons.”
Piran is a picturesque town of about 17,000 people surrounding the tiny Gulf of Piran in the Adriatic Sea. Its main revenue comes from tourism.
During the campaign, Bossman offered to introduce electric cars to the town and boost Internet shopping to overcome a problem of too few stores.
He also said he will try to get an airport in Piran and a golf course to boost its tourism.
Associated Press Writer Snjezana Vukic contributed to this report from Zagreb, Croatia.
Photo: Peter Bossman