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Start of a trend? Germany elects two foreign-born mayors on same day

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Claus Ruhe Madsen and Octavian Ursu
Claus Ruhe Madsen and Octavian Ursu
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At first glance, Claus Ruhe Madsen and Octavian Ursu have little in common: one is a Danish national and the other grew up in Romania.

Yet, both settled in Germany in the 1990s and were, on Sunday, elected to the highest office in their respective cities of adoption, becoming Germany's first foreign mayors.

Claus Ruhe Madsen

The new mayor of Rostock, a municipality on the coast of the Baltic Sea some 180 kilometres east of Hamburg, was born near Copenhagen, Denmark's capital.

He moved to Germany in 1992, settled in Rostock seven years later and has, for the past two decades, run his own chain of furniture stores. He also held the post of president of Rostock's Chamber of Industry and Commerce for six years.

The 46-year-old ran for office as an independent but was supported by Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) — who did not field their own candidate in the city of 210,000 residents. He won in a runoff against Steffen Bockhahn, from the far-left Linke party, with 57% of the vote.

During the campaign, Ruhe Madsen pledged to modernise the city, improve public transport and provide more bike paths.

Octavian Ursu

On the same day, Ursu was being elected in Gorlitz, a city of 55,000 inhabitants in the eastern lander of Saxony.

Originally from Bucharest, in Romania, he settled in Gorlitz in 1990 after being offered a spot in the city's philharmonic orchestra and has since acquired the double nationality.

The CDU candidate was elected with 55% of the votes in a closely-watched ballot. His opponent, Sebastian Wippel, from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), had come out on top in the first round of the election and his victory would have provided the party with its first mayor.

But Ursu secured the support of the Green and left-wing parties during the runoff as well as high-profile actors, producers and directors who wrote an open letter to the city's voters calling on them to reject "hate and enmity, discord and exclusion."

Nicknamed "Gorliwood", the picturesque town has 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.

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

In a post on Facebook, Ursu said that "after a long and challenging election campaign, it is now important to talk to one another and build trust. I hereby call on all citizens to meet and actively work on social cohesion."

Herzlichen Dank an alle Görlitzerinnen und Görlitzer, die mir Ihr Vertrauen geschenkt und Ihre Stimme gegeben...

Publiée par Octavian Ursu sur Dimanche 16 juin 2019