Another Obama in Slovenia politics: First black mayor elected in Piran
Peter Bossman is Slovenia’s first black mayor
Peter Bossman has been in the news in the past two months for achieving what any black person has not done in his new adopted country, Slovenia. He was elected the first black Mayor of the city of Piran. Although the seaside town, Piran is not known much about outside Solvenia but Dr. Bossman achievement has made world headline news and it is still being talked about even in his original homeland of Ghana where they celebrated his victory.
Centre-left Social Democrat (SD) candidate, Dr. Peter Bossman scored a tight victory receiving 51.4 percent of the vote against his colleague doctor, outgoing Piran mayor, Tomaz Gantar who gained 48.4 percent, according to final results of the run-off election.
Just like President Barack Obama, who has is roots to Kenya in Africa and became the first black man to be elected as America’s president with popular vote of the people; Dr. Peter Bossman, a 54 year old doctor originally from Ghana; a social Democrat has changed the face of politics in Slovenia for life with his election as Mayor.
The 54-year-old doctor from Ghana said race rarely came up during the campaign though opponents did try to use his accent when speaking Slovenian against him.
“They weren’t really very harmful comments. It was more comments like, ‘We would prefer to have a real Slovenian be mayor’”. To make his victory more special; African immigrants in the whole of Slovenia are estimated to be around 200; that is not a large community to deliver victory in a race for the mayor seat but the native Slovenians voted the medical doctor because of his approach to issues of the people. He writes his proposals for fixing his city’s problems on prescription papers and distributes it to the people. What the city needed was a true medical surgery and he was prepared to offer that for the people.
He first arrived in the country’s capital of Ljubljana as a medical student in the late 1970s, and he has lived in Piran.
Dr. Bossman had aimed to return to Ghana after completing his studies but changed his mind after marrying a fellow student of Croatian origin and getting his first job as a doctor for tourists visiting the Slovenian seaside. “I fell in love with this country. Slovenia is my home. Even my first impression of the country was good, it was so clean and green,” he said.
Dr. Bossman, a general practitioner, posted pictures on his Facebook page of campaign promises written on prescription paper including history, diagnoses and recommendations for treatment of the city’s problems.
His plans for the city of 17,000 include encouraging people to drive electric cars down its narrow streets, building a golf course to draw more tourists and promoting local products.
“We have so many things going for us here. It’s a shame that we don’t promote them more,” he said.
His campaign strategy paid off at the polls, and captured media attention across the country.
Several weeks before the election, the headline of a column in the Dnevnik newspaper -- sold nationwide read, “Peter Bossman for President* (well, first as mayor).”
“When the Americans made a historic move and elected Obama for president, this was a tectonic shift. A new chapter of national history...The real question is whether we are able to do what the Americans did,” columnist Vlado Miheljak wrote.
The Obama analogy started at the beginning of his campaign -- and stuck, Bossman said.
“I said that I’m flattered by the comparison, but I’m in no way President Obama. I’m Peter Bossman, and I’m just running for mayor of a small town,” he said.
And Bossman says he has no plans to seek higher office once his four-year term as mayor ends.
“I want to be a good mayor. I want to help my people,” he said. “I’m not really thinking about what I’m going to do in the future.”
“You can hardly say that I’m the average Slovenian citizen, but the mere fact that I was elected shows the high level of democracy reigning in Slovenia,” Bossman told the press after the result was published by the electoral commission.
Asked if he is still in contact with Ghana, he said, “I do visit Ghana every couple of years to see my mother, but this (Piran) is my home,” Bossman said. “My mother (from Ghana) has called me already three times today and the last time we spoke, I told her I had won and she just started to cry,” Bossman said.
“My father was also a doctor and a politician (in Ghana), he used to tell me that if you can, you should help society,” Bossman said. And that is what he intends to do with his election as Mayor of Piran.
Slovenia, an Alpine state of 2 million people, declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and became the only former Yugoslav state to join the European Union in 2004.
Some 12 percent of people living in Slovenia were born abroad and only a fraction comes from Africa.
Dr. Bossman said he had faced no discrimination because of his origin over the past decade.
“There are always small groups of people not accepting people who are different and in the first months after coming to Slovenia I felt that some people did not want to be with us (immigrants from Africa),” he said.
“But for the last 10 or 15 years I experienced nothing like that any more. I have no problems at all and I think people no longer see the colour of my skin when they look at me.”
Dr. Bossman, 54, with is wife have two daughters.
After over 20 years in Piran “people do not see me any more as a black doctor or a foreigner, they see me as a good doctor, a good man so I intend to use my four years in office to improve their lives and give back to the city,” he added.