Polls open in Cologne after anti-asylum attack on mayoral candidate

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Polling stations opened Sunday for mayoral elections in the west German city of Cologne, one day after a politically motivated knife attack left one of the top candidates hospitalized.

Election official Gabriele Klug urged the 800,000-strong electorate to vote despite the incident, in which independent runner Henriette Reker was stabbed and seriously injured while on the campaign trail.

Police investigating the attack in Germany’s fourth-biggest city confirmed that the 44-year-old assailant was motivated by anger at Reker’s pro-refugee stance.

Reker, who is responsible for organizing refugee accommodation, had good chances of winning in Sunday’s vote, according to polls conducted by the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), all of whom backed her as their mayoral candidate.

The integration of asylum-seekers was a key item on her electoral programme.

Reker’s condition has been stabilized following an emergency operation on Saturday evening. Doctors said she is likely to make a full recovery.

The attack overshadowed the final stages of the political campaign.

Reker’s supporters had expected two firsts for Cologne, which is yet to see a female or an independent candidate take the top job in city government.

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