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'Gorliwood' rejects far-right candidate in favour of Romanian migrant

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'Gorliwood' rejects far-right candidate in favour of Romanian migrant
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Reuters
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The eastern German city of Gorlitz, nicknamed "Gorliwood" because of the dozens of movies filmed there, backed Chancellor Angela Merkel's party on Sunday, electing Christian Democrat (CDU) candidate Octavian Ursu as mayor and rejecting AfD candidate Sebastian Wippel.

Wippel would have been the country's first mayor from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. He won the first round of the election on May 26 with 36% of the vote but did not manage to defeat the CDU candidate in the second round.

Ursu won the runoff with just over 55% after other parties supported him.

"It was not a vote for Mr Ursu but more a vote against the AfD candidate, against me," said Wippel. "The CDU had to rely on support from many groups including from the far-left extremists without whom they would not have made it."

"I am happy that a majority has chosen to vote for me, but in the end it is not about two candidates but the orientation of this town to the outside world and that we remain an open society and do not isolate ourselves," Ursu, said.

The far-right, anti-migrant AfD party has disrupted German politics in recent years, entering every state legislature, the federal parliament as well as the European Parliament.

A win in Gorlitz could have cemented the party's position as a serious party and acted as a bellwether with regional elections in Saxony — where it is located — and the neighbouring landers of Brandenburg and Thuringia scheduled to be held in September and October.

'Hate and enmity'

On the border with Poland, Gorlitz is mostly known for its link to the film industry.

The picturesque town, which boasts a well-preserved old centre, cobblestoned streets and a diverse architecture with facades from multiple eras, provided the background for a host of movies including Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Kate Winslet's The Reader.

Some of the actors, producers and directors who have worked in the charming city waded into the election debate, writing an open letter calling on voters to shun AfD.

"Don't succumb to hate and enmity, discord and exclusion...Don't betray your convictions as soon as someone claims he can solve things for you," the signatories of the letter, which includes Stephen Daldry, who directed Billy Elliot and The Reader, as well as actors Daniel Bruhl from Inglorious Basterds and Game of Thrones' Tom Wlaschiha, wrote.

In a statement, Wippel said the intervention is part of what makes "a vibrant democracy" but that the residents of Gorlitz "need no tips from the outside".

"If someone discredits Gorlitz, it's those who encouraged Hollywood to speak out in disrespect. There is no reason to insinuate that more than a third of our citizens are filled with hatred and hostility," he added.

AfD, which Wippel also represents at the state legislature, came out first in Saxony during the EU elections with 25.3%.

Although Gorlitz has benefited from its fame in terms of tourism, it remains blighted with some of the same problems which impact the rest of this part of Germany, including higher-than-average unemployment and an exodus of young people.

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