Is Germany Ready for an Obama of Its Own? | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 10.11.2008
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Is Germany Ready for an Obama of Its Own?

Barack Obama's election victory in the United States has many Germans asking if a politician with an immigrant background could one day be elected chancellor of Germany.

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle and their daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7,arrive on stage during his election night party

Could it happen in Germany?

Could Germany have its own Barack Obama in the future? According to a recent poll, not any day soon.

A Forsa survey published over the weekend concluded that 58 percent of Germans feel the country is not yet ready to elect someone with an immigrant background to the office of chancellor, while 39 percent said they could imagine having a head of state with foreign roots.

Some German politicians from immigrant families, however, are among the more pessimistic voices on this issue. Turkish-born Ozcan Mutlu, a spokesperson for education and migration policies for the Green Party in the Berlin House of Representatives since 1999, said Germany is nowhere close to electing a candidate like Obama.

"It would be very good for Germany, because it would reflect the ethnic diversity of this country on the level of government, but Germany is far, far away from such a reality," Mutlu said. "Our country doesn't have the kind of civil rights history like the United States, for example. And immigrants in Germany have not brought forward anyone like Obama from their own ranks, so I think we're far from reaching such a goal."

Germany has a different history

Social Democrat parliamentarian Josip Juratovic is more confident that a German Obama is in the cards, if only because now almost 40 percent of the German population is of non-German origin.

"We now have many parliamentarians with non-German backgrounds, so why shouldn't it be possible?" said the 49-year-old, who was born in Croatia. "But just as Barack Obama sees himself as the president of all Americans, it's important that they see themselves are representatives of all German citizens."

Other politicians of non-German origin argue that the situation in Germany cannot be compared with that in the United States.

"America has a totally different history," said Emine Demirbueken-Wegner, a member of the Berlin House of Representatives who moved to Germany in 1969 from her native Turkey. "You can't just apply Obama's success to Germany's history of immigration."

The question of whether or not Germany is ready for a leader with an immigrant background will be discussed when there are more parliamentarians in the Bundestag of non-German origin, she said.

Demirbueken-Wegner added that she is confident that more people from Germany's immigrant minorities will get involved in politics, but warned that it's a process that should not be hurried.

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