- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 6, 2002

BERLIN Anna Luhrmann will become the youngest member to sit in a German parliament this week, when she takes her seat as a representative for the Greens.
Miss Luhrmann, who celebrated her 19th birthday during the summer, gained her seat during the general election last month, in which Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat-led government won a narrow victory, largely as a result of gains made by his environmentalist Greens coalition partners.
Her entry into parliament has set a record for the German Bundestag, where until now the youngest member had been 22 years old.
"My age doesn't worry me a bit," Miss Luhrmann said last week. "I am looking forward to bringing a bit of fresh air into German politics. I won't be one of parliament's moaners, my aim is to get personally involved. It is high time that adults under 22 were represented in government so that they can decide on policies that affect young people."
Miss Luhrmann was elected by dint of Germany's electoral lists, which enable little-known candidates to win seats providing that sufficient second votes are cast for their party under the country's system of proportional representation.
She ran for office in Germany's Taunus region, a district outside Frankfurt that forms part of the city's commuter belt and contains a high percentage of bankers and businesspeople.
Self-confidence and a forthright debating style gained her standing ovations on several occasions at election rallies. While being questioned as part of a panel of local politicians, she surprised her audience by displaying an intimate understanding of the German tax system.
"In the beginning people always look rather amused when I take part in a political discussion, but when they hear me speak, they soon notice that I am not stupid," she said.
Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister and the country's most popular politician, said he found it "almost unbelievable" that a 19-year-old had won a seat for his party. "It is fantastic; I am totally enthusiastic about Anna," he said.
Miss Luhrmann was born into a family actively engaged in politics. Her father, a former city council official, is a Social Democrat, and her mother works for the local branch of the party. Yet their daughter says the socialists never interested her. "As an individual you cannot achieve anything with the Social Democrats," she said.
Miss Luhrmann said her concern for the environment began before she was aware of the term, at the age of 8. "My mother wanted to cut down a tree in our garden and I was so upset that I cried. It was a key experience that influenced my decision to get involved in politics." The tree was spared.
At 13 she joined the Young Greens and spent weekends removing rubbish from streams in the Taunus hills.
Later she spent several months on a school exchange in the United States, which left her with a better command of English than most German legislators.
Miss Luhrmann intended to move to Berlin this month to attend a university before the election last week. Serving a four-year term as a parliamentarian has put an end to those plans for the time being.
"I can still study after this term of government. I shall, after all, only be 23," she said.


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