Friday, January 2, 2009

Immigrant mayors are thinly spread in Europe

Rotterdam's new mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, illustrates the Netherlands' forward position when it comes to the participation of immigrants in politics.

It is almost impossible to overestimate the symbolic value of Ahmed Aboutaleb's career: born in Morocco, moved to the Netherlands as an adolescent, local councillor in Amsterdam, junior minister and, from January 5, mayor of the country's second biggest city Rotterdam (population 583,000).

For many immigrants the Aboutaleb success story must amount to a modest 'Yes we can'. "His position speaks to the imagination," says Andreas Wüst, political researcher at Mannheim University in Germany. "He has to be an example to many immigrants, and not just in the Netherlands."

Aboutaleb will be the first ethnic minority mayor of a major European city, a position which shows the relative openness of the Netherlands' political system for newcomers. In Holland people with an immigrant background are better represented in elected political and management functions than in most other European states. This may be because mayors in the Netherlands are not elected but appointed and because of the system of proportional representation and party lists.

And there is morrreee

Day Opening - January 2