• Germany's news in English

'And that's a good thing': goodbye Wowereit!

The Local · 11 Dec 2014, 12:02

Published: 11 Dec 2014 12:02 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

With 87 of the 146 votes in the senate, Wowereit's fellow Social Democratic Party (SPD) member was confirmed as Wowereit's successor. He garnered two more votes than the reigning SPD and Christian Democrat (CDU) coalition have seats. 

Müller soon left the Parliament to attend a state first ministers' conference with Angela Merkel on state finances. 

Müller casts his vote. Photo: DPA

The 61-year-old incumbent Wowereit held his post since 2001, but finally announced he was stepping down in June after years of scandal over the delayed development of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER).

The airport was supposed to open in 2010 at a cost of €2.83 billion. A current opening date has yet to be scheduled, though current estimates by CEO Hartmut Mehdorn say 2017 or 2018. Costs have overrun to €5.4 billion, with a further €2.19 billion expected to be incurred before completion.

The scandal almost brings Wowereit's career, which started with a 2001 election called in the wake of another scandal, full circle.

Political prodigy

Wowereit first entered mayoral office after being elected the district mayor for Berlin-Tempelhof at the age of 30, making him the youngest politician to be elected to the city legislature.

In 2001, following the Berliner Bank Scandal, in which the state-owned bank collapsed with billions of debt, Mayor Eberhard Diepgen stepped down, "Wowi" as he's affectionately know had worked his way high enough in the ranks to win the party's nomination.

Wowereit came out as gay in his 2001 mayoral campaign when he learned that tabloids were about to reveal his sexuality in print.

"I am gay and that is a good thing," Wowereit said as he publicly came out.

After a moment's pause, the announcement was met with cheering and applause at the SPD headquarters.

"... and that is a good thing" became a catchphrase associated with "Wowi". At the time of his resignation, he was the only openly gay mayor leading a major European city.

Later, in a 2010 interview with the US-publication, Time Magazine, Wowereit said that his coming out strengthened his campaign.

Throughout his career, he also became known for coining the unofficial tagline for Berlin, "poor, but sexy", which he said in television interview in 2004. To this day, it's hard to find a travel article about the German capital that doesn't reference the 10-year-old description of the city.

Story continues below…

Despite the occasional flare-ups of discontent with Berlin's government, which include BER, rising rent prices, and the reconstruction of  the Prussian palaces at a cost of €552 million - adding to the city's record debt of around €60 billion - Wowereit kept getting re-elected.

In 2011, he started his fourth term after his party received a fresh majority. 

His final day in Berlin's Rote Rathaus (Red City Hall) were marked with well-wishes and flowers from his colleagues. As he left, he said "Tschüss!" and someone answered "See you soon!" to which the outgoing mayor only responded with a "nö" in true Berliner form.

Wowereit is a life-long Berliner and lives with his partner of 21 years, neurosurgeon Jörn Kubicki.

Müller now has two years before the next Berlin city election to prove himself at the helm of Europe's second biggest city. He faces several challenges, not the least of which is the Wowereit's Achilles' heel, BER. 

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Parents who don't get nursery spot for kid entitled to pay
Photo: DPA

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that parents whose children don't receive placements in nursery care are entitled to compensation.

Eurowings braces as cabin crew union proclaims strike
Photo: DPA

A union representing cabin crew for Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings announced that strikes could take place at any time over the next two weeks, starting on Monday.

Mysterious German U-boat wreckage found off Scotland
Photo: ScottishPower

First World War U-boat "attacked by sea monster” thought to be found off Scottish coast.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd