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Stabbing victim wins Cologne mayoral race

October 18, 2015

Henriette Reker, who was stabbed in a racist attack, has been elected the first female mayor of Cologne. The independent candidate backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party won 52.6 percent of the vote.

Köln Wahlkampf Wahlplakate Reker Ott
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg

Henriette Reker, the victim of a knife attack the previous day, has been elected mayor of Cologne with an absolute majority of 52.6 percent. Reker will become the city's first woman in the position.

Her closest competitor was Jochen Ott of the Social Democrats (SPD), the party in power in Cologne since 2009. Ott garnered around 32 percent of the vote, marking a clear victory for Reker, an independent supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), as well as the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP).

Originally scheduled for September, the Cologne mayoral election was pushed to Sunday after some voting slips were printed incorrectly, which may be why the ballot was not postponed after the attack against Reker.

Turnout for the vote was just 40 percent. The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party came in fourth - with just 4 percent of the poll.

Xenophobic attacker targets Reker

On Saturday, a 44-year-old man stabbed the 58-year-old Reker in the neck while she was visiting an outdoor market in Cologne's Braunsfeld neighborhood. According to police, the man - an unemployed former painter and varnisher living on welfare - took issue with Reker's pro-refugee policies. Witnesses said he was shouting something about refugees as he struck Reker.

As part of her work in Cologne's social services department, Reker has been charged with arranging accommodation for the thousands of asylum seekers in the city.

The assailant stabbed four more people before being subdued by police. No one was fatally wounded, but Reker was rushed to the hospital and immediately underwent surgery. A candlelit vigil to protest xenophobia was held in Berlin, and well-wishers gathered outside Cologne's city hall to show support for Reker.

Cologne University Hospital told the press that "the healing process for this kind of injury usually takes a certain amount of time," but that Reker's prognosis was very positive.

es/tj (dpa, Reuters)