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Merkel’s Bavarian ally drops demand for refugee quota

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Minister President of Bavaria and leader of Bavarian CDU’s sister Party CSU, Horst Seehofer, sits in a red chair on the terrace of the Marie Elisabeth Lueders House on August 20, 2017 in Berlin. Gregor Fischer / dpa / AFP

A key ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel backed away Sunday from his demand for an upper limit of refugees Germany can take in, removing a major hurdle before September 24 elections.

Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer, head of the conservative CSU party, had openly clashed with Merkel at the height of the mass migrant and refugee influx in 2015.

More than one million people have since claimed asylum in the EU’s biggest economy, a move that won Merkel much international praise but also sparked a harsh xenophobic backlash.

As border closures in the Balkans and an EU-Turkey agreement have sharply reduced the influx, Merkel’s popularity has recovered and she is seen as the favourite to win the election.

As a precondition for continuing to work with Merkel’s party, Seehofer long demanded an annual upper limit of 200,000 asylum seekers — a demand she has consistently rejected.

Speaking to public broadcaster ARD, Seehofer said: “The situation has changed, and the position in Berlin has changed,” pointing to tougher asylum laws and EU border protection measures.

“We now have markedly less immigration than at the time I made those comments,” he added.



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