Charismatic Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit, who announced in 2001 that “I’m gay, and that’s a good thing,” won his re-election bid on Sunday, extending his leadership of the German capital city into a third five-year term.
Wowereit, 57, is perhaps the highest profile LGBT politico in Europe, with German newspapers suggesting this latest victory boosts his chances of being nominated as the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) candidate for the chancellorship in the 2013 national election. “He has a laid-back charm and an easygoing, quick-witted cheek that chimes with locals,” Speigel reports.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been criticism of his governance.
Berlin’s unemployment rate is twice the German national average, its schools are ranked among the worst in the country, the local commuter rail system is notoriously unreliable, cars are set ablaze almost nightly by unknown arsonists and the city is being overwhelmed by… real estate investors who are making rents unaffordable for ordinary people.
We give the major props for keeping his cool as Pope Benedict XVI continues to tour Germany this month. Wowereit will meet the Holy Father before a public Mass on September 22, but says he plans on being as hospitable as possible, given the circumstances.
“I understand, and it’s also in order, that citizens are using the Pope’s visit to draw attention here to the fact that the Catholic church’s teaching represent theses that belong in past centuries, but not in the modern era… I have great understanding for these protests, assuming they take place within a peaceful and democratic framework. The Catholic church will have to live with that.”
In your face, Benny!
And in a display of true class, Wowereit deftly addressed questions about how his sexuality will affect his confab with Big Papa:
“I assume that the Pope will be informed, if it interests him, that I live with a boyfriend,” he said.
A charismatic German leader we can get behind—who’d have ever guessed?