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Germans unimpressed with Merkel's rebellious anti-migrant minister Seehofer, poll shows

Rebellious interior minister Horst Seehofer's popularity has plummeted in particular

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Friday 06 July 2018 13:33 BST
Donald Trump attacks Angela Merkel for giving sanctuary to refugees

Angela Merkel’s rebellious interior minister has failed to impress Germans with his hardline stance on migration, according to new polling likely to reinforce the chancellor’s position.

A survey of public opinion found that Horst Seehofer’s popularity has fallen by a net 16 points with the general public since he started agitating for tougher border controls.

Mr Seehofer’s approval rating has tanked to just 27 per cent, falling faster than Ms Merkel’s. The chancellor also appears to have been slightly damaged by the row, her approval falling 2 per cent to 48 per cent, according to the ARD/Infratest dimap poll.

The results are a blow for Mr Seehofer, who observers say had been taking a hardline stance on border control to shore up the popularity of his right-wing CSU party ahead of regional elections in Bavaria due in the autumn.

The CSU, who have been regional allies of Ms Merkel’s CDU since 1949, fear they will lose ground to the far-right AfD, who have been on the march for years and made gains in last year’s Bundestag elections. Bavaria is on the migration route from the Balkans and has also traditionally been seen as more conservative than the rest of Germany. The AfD did well there last year.

Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer at a party meeting in December (Reuters)

The pair of conservative politicians reached a compromise position at the start of the week after late night talks. Under the new policy, some migrants would be held in centres, with the aim of returning those who had registered in another EU country back to that state.

Germans have also lost confidence in Ms Merkel’s coalition government more generally since the row started. Dissatisfaction with the work of the administration is up 15 points since the last survey from the same series, the poll shows, while satisfaction is down 16.

Mr Seehofer, the country’s interior minister, had threatened to unilaterally send police to the German border and had wanted migrants to be turned away there before they could enter. Ms Merkel had wanted policy to be coordinated at a European level, fearing countries going their own way could spark a wave of border controls popping up across the continent, endangering the passportless Schengen area.

The compromise solution appears to be on course to do just that, with Austria calling for clarification from its northern neighbour and hinting that it might close its southern border to prevent it becoming the final destination for refugees and migrants heading towards Germany.

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