Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer at the first parliamentary session after the September elections © Reuters
Chancellor Angela Merkel was set to defend her open-border immigration policy on Sunday as she began the difficult task of forming a new German coalition government following a diminished victory in last month’s elections.
Ms Merkel, the head of the Christian Democratic Union, was scheduled to meet her counterpart Horst Seehofer of the Christian Social Union, her party’s regional partner in Bavaria, with both parties under pressure to respond to the loss of votes in September’s poll.
Germany’s chancellor at the weekend ruled out any hope of extending her “grand coalition” with the centre-left Social Democrats. She is expected to seek a new coalition with the Greens and the Free Democratic party.
The CDU and CSU, which together won 33 per cent of the national vote, their worst result since 1949, have been at loggerheads over Ms Merkel’s decision to admit 1m refugees to the country in 2015-16. Many came to Bavaria, causing a backlash among conservative voters that helped the rise of the Alternative for Germany, a rightwing populist party that captured nearly 13 per cent of the national vote.
Mr Seehofer, who has faced calls to resign after the CSU’s share of the vote fell by 10 percentage points in Bavaria compared with 2013, has demanded a limit on the number of refugees in a bid to curb support for the AfD ahead of regional elections next year. Ms Merkel has said such a cap would be unconstitutional and defended her policy.
The dispute underscores that while the CDU’s political differences are wider with the Greens and FDP, negotiations with the CSU will also be contentious. Broad coalition negotiations are expected to take months.
Ms Merkel on Saturday offered her first explicit support for a new alliance, saying an agreement with the SPD was not a credible option. “It is clear that the Social Democrats are not capable of being in government on the national level in the foreseeable future, so I advise us all to waste no time thinking about that any more,” Ms Merkel told the youth wing of her party in Dresden.