Porn Star, Model Seek EU Seats

Ulivo candidate for the next European elections Lilli Gruber speaks at a rally in downtown Rome, Thursday, May 27, 2004. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)
AP
Europeans are enjoying a chuckle as the usually staid European Parliament heads into an election with candidates ranging from a soccer star and a supermodel to a porn star who campaigns in risque outfits.

The multinational parliament has spread its territory across 25 nations of the European Union, including 10 new ones, mostly from the old Soviet bloc, which joined on May 1.

The ex-communists are relatively new to democratic voting, but in the four-day election beginning Thursday, they are providing their fair share of peculiar politicians.

In the Czech Republic, adult-film star Nora Baumberger (nee Katerina Bochnickova, screen name Dolly Buster) stunned pensioners in a Prague retirement home last month with her plunging neckline. The 34-year-old belongs to a party formerly known as the Independent Erotic Initiative. It has since dropped the "Erotic."

In Slovenia, Mladen Rudonja is hoping his soccer prowess will earn him a seat.

He played 50 times as an attacker for the national team and scored only once. But what a goal: It qualified his team for its first World Cup appearance, in 2002.

Interviewed recently by Slovenian radio, Rudonja, 32, had matters other than politics on his mind. "Sorry, I can't talk now. I've got to go to training," he said.
In Slovakia, former National Hockey League forward Peter Stastny one of the NHL's top goal-scorers during a career with the Quebec Nordiques, the New Jersey Devils and the St. Louis Blues — is star candidate of the Slovak Christian and Democratic Union.

Another eye-catching candidate is Estonian supermodel Carmen Kass, who rose to fame after being spotted in a supermarket at age 14. She promises to raise her tiny nation's profile if she gets a seat.

"Everything I've gotten, I've gotten from Estonia. I want to give something back to Estonia," Kass, 25, told The Associated Press.

Italy, which gained dubious renown when it elected porn star Cicciolina to the national parliament in 1987, has several unusual candidates: an art historian leading a "party of beauty"; a Palestinian who asks voters to "Bring Palestine into the Heart of Europe"; and the country's most esteemed news anchor.

With lustrous red hair and an intense delivery, RAI state TV veteran Lilli Gruber is one of Italy's most recognizable figures. But in April she quit the airwaves, complaining that her broadcasts were being twisted to favor the government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose media empire owns the major private networks.

Gruber has a better chance than the other unusual candidates. Italians, among the world's most devoted TV watchers, widely admire her journalism.

The parliament holds only limited sway over the executive that sets EU policy in Brussels, and although its powers are growing, its elections are still considered a yawn. So although several prime ministers and other European heavyweights are running, it's the offbeat and controversial that get the attention.

One such candidate is Robert Kilroy-Silk of Britain. His Oprah-style daytime TV show was axed by the BBC after he described Arabs in his newspaper column as "suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors."

He's running with the U.K. Independence Party, which advocates British withdrawal from the EU.

A candidate whose medium is the word rather than the television is Portugal's 1998 Nobel literature laureate, Jose Saramago, a longtime Communist who is on the party ticket in his homeland. He also stirred a Mideast-related controversy by comparing the Israeli-occupied West bank city of Ramallah to Auschwitz.

He has urged voters to hand in blank ballots as a protest against the behavior of politicians. His most recent novel, "Essay on Lucidity," depicts an imaginary election in which 83 percent of voters hand in blank ballots. The result is a wave of repression.