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Eastern Europe's First Black Mayor Tells Supporters Not to View Him as Next 'Obama'

Peter Bossman, center, a Ghana-born physician celebrates his electoral victory in Piran, Slovenia, late Sunday, 24 Oct. 2010
Peter Bossman, center, a Ghana-born physician celebrates his electoral victory in Piran, Slovenia, late Sunday, 24 Oct. 2010

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Dr. Peter Bossman, who was born in Ghana, is starting his work as mayor of Slovenia's coastal town of Piran. Bossman's election earned him the distinction of being Eastern Europe's first black mayor.  But he has urged supporters not to view him as the next Barack Obama, a reference to the United States' first black president.

Bossman, 54, has become a superstar in Slovenia.  His supporters are celebrating his election victory Sunday, when he was chosen mayor of Piran, a postcard mixed Slovenian town of 17,000 Slovenians, Italians, Croats, Bosnians and others around the tiny Gulf of Piran in the Adriatic Sea.

Bossman immigrated from Ghana to what is now Slovenia in the 1970s to study medicine.

He says he intended to return to Ghana, but changed his mind after marrying a fellow student of Croatian origin, and getting a first job as a medical doctor for tourists visiting Slovenia's seaside.

Media call Bossman the 'Slovenian Obama' as he is the first black person to be mayor in Eastern Europe. Yet, the Ghanaian-born leader urges Slovenians not to compare him with America's first elected black president.

The incoming mayor makes clear that he is different than President Barack Obama. He adds he usually tells reporters: "I am Peter Bossman and I am the mayor of Piran."

The black physician, a member of Slovenia's governing Social Democrats, won a run-off election in the town with just over 51 percent of the vote, narrowly defeating the center-right outgoing mayor, Dr. Tomaz Gantar.

Bossman's success is viewed by commentators as remarkable in Eastern Europe, where people from Africa and other non-European nations have complained about discrimination or mistreatment.

Even Slovenia's human rights record had been criticized after it erased over 25,000 people from official documents for failing to apply for Slovenian citizenship after it declared independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Yet, the Alpine nation of two million people became the first former Yugoslav republic to join the European Union in 2004 and has since promised to re-instate those whose residency was erased.

About 12 percent of people living in Slovenia were born abroad, but only a fraction come from Africa. Most black people tend to be tourists. But Bossman, who also speaks English, tells international media his victory in mayoral elections shows that Slovenia is now mature enough to elect a nonwhite political representative.

"I think that people don't see me as a black man," he said. "They see me as a good man, as a doctor and the racial question really didn't came into play here."

Bossman awaits a busy period. He has promised voters to introduce electric cars in Piran and boost Internet shopping to overcome its few stores. He also wants to increase tourism revenues by trying to bring an airport and a golf-course to town.

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