A leading candidate in a German city mayoral election was stabbed while campaigning Saturday in what police said was a “racist political” attack linked to the large numbers of migrants entering the country.
Henriette Reker, an independent close to the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel, suffered serious wounds to the neck in the attack in the western city of Cologne, which is to elect its mayor on Sunday.
The attack comes as Germany struggles to cope with a huge influx of asylum seekers, whose numbers are expected to reach between 800,000 and a million by the year’s end.
Merkel’s open-door policy has provoked a backlash among her conservative allies and sparked protests among the far-right.
Reker was “responsible for taking charge of refugees” in the city, regional police head Wolfgang Albers said in a statement, suggesting the stabbing was a “political act”.
The attacker, a 44-year-old unemployed man arrested at the scene, “said he had a racist motivation for committing this act”, Cologne police official Norbert Wagner added at a news conference.
Reker was said to be in a stable condition after the attack which took place as she manned a CDU information stand at a market in the city. Four other people were wounded in the incident, one seriously.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas condemned the attack as “an unimaginable and abominable act” while regional president Annelore Kraft said it was an “assault on democracy.”
Reker is seen as standing a good chance of securing the mayorship Sunday in Cologne, Germany’s fourth-largest city with 980,000 inhabitants.