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Snubbing Xenophobia, German City Elects Pro-Refugee Stabbing Victim as Mayor

Election outcome suggests "open-arms welcome of refugees has broad support among German voters"

Signs over the weekend encouraging Henriette Reker to "get well soon" and urging voters to participate in the election "now more than ever." (Photo: dronepicr/flickr/cc)

In a win for tolerance over xenophobia, independent and pro-refugee candidate Henriette Reker—who was stabbed by a violently anti-immigrant constituent during a campaign event just one day prior—scored a decisive victory on Sunday to become the next mayor of the German city of Cologne.

According to Deutsche Welle:

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.

[...] 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.

Reker, who will also be the first female mayor of Cologne, is currently in serious but stable condition at a local hospital with a positive prognosis for recovery.

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The election outcome is "being seen as an indicator that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s controversial open-arms welcome of refugees has broad support among German voters," McClatchy reported from Berlin, adding:

Not only did Reker win an unlikely majority in a multi-candidate election, but the second-place candidate was also pro-refugee and collected 32 percent. The candidate of the most prominent anti-immigrant political party in Germany, Alternative for Deutschland, took just 4 percent, and a more radical anti-immigrant party didn’t poll even 1 percent.

Germany expects up to 1.5 million asylum seekers this year, and Merkel's welcoming stance has invited a right-wing backlash.

Reker, meanwhile, had been Cologne's top social welfare official, and as part of that job she ran the ancient city's refugee housing program.

As CNN reported, "Reker has stuck up for refugees as other politicians have advocated turning them out of temporary shelters, according to media reports. And she has praised new arrivals as adding value to German society."

In a recent statement, she said: "When I speak of refugees, I don't speak of desperate measures and burdens but instead of potential and opportunity."

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