08:41 GMT +319 November 2019
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    German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks next to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (not seen) during a news conference at Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy May 5, 2016.

    Merkel Threatened With Rival Bid for Power From Sister Party in 2017 Vote

    © REUTERS / Max Rossi
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    German Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing a possible rival bid in next year's federal election from her own sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU) after suffering a slump on the polls amid the growing support for right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

    Merkel's Christian Democrat Union (CDU) party, which campaigns in all of Germany except Bavaria, has been in coalition with the CSU since the Second World War and — although there have been rough moments in the marriage over the years — there has never been a rift that threatened to split the parties at a federal election.

    However, the rise of AfD — caused by heavy criticism of Merkel's handling of the Eurozone and migrant crises as well as rising fear of Islam — has caused her ratings to tumble and CSU leader Horst Seehofer, has said he will not rule out his party standing against hers (CDU) in the 2017 election.

    Merkel has been heavily criticized over her handling of the crisis in the Eurozone, calling for austerity measures across the zone as a way out of the crisis. The AfD began its attack on her leadership over the issue, calling for her to back a shift from austerity to focus more on economic growth, garnering support from many Germans tired of the effects of tough austerity in the Eurozone.

    Protesters wearing masks of Sigmar Gabriel, Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer.
    Protesters wearing masks of Sigmar Gabriel, Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer.

    Then came opposition to her policy on immigration — and her suggestion that Germany's door was open to refugees, precipitating the biggest mass movement of people since the end of the war. AfD grasped hold of the issue amid rising calls for a cap on the number of refugees, as local authorities across German struggled to find the resources to deal with asylum seekers.

    Seehofer himself launched a series of withering attacks on Merkel — particularly at his CSU party's 2015 annual conference, when he ripped at her in a 13-minute tirade. Bavaria — bordering Austria and the Czech Republic — bore the brunt of the migrant flows from the West Balkan route. Merkel has still refused to put a cap on the number of asylum seekers Germany will take.

    German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel is seen on a video screen as Bavarian Prime Minister and head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer makes a speech at the CDU party congress in Karlsruhe, Germany in this December 15, 2015.
    © REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach
    German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel is seen on a video screen as Bavarian Prime Minister and head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer makes a speech at the CDU party congress in Karlsruhe, Germany in this December 15, 2015.

    Her unpopularity abroad has begun to diminish her reputation at home. She was the main broker behind the deal to pay Turkey US$6.84 billion over two years to prevent further migrant flows out of his country and accept back "irregular migrants" from Greece, in return — on a one-for-one basis — for Syrian refugees from turkey relocating to EU member states. The deal has drawn severe criticism from human rights groups, who say Turkey has a poor reputation on human rights and the treatment of refugees.

    Part of the deal was for largely-Muslim Turkey to win visa-free access to the Schengen zone and acceleration of its membership of the EU, which has drawn criticism and led to a rise in Islamophobia — particularly in the light of the terror attacks in Paris.

    That deal may yet fail to stick, with many European lawmakers being critical of Merkel for playing into the hands of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Merkel's Government is said to have discussed a 'plan B' under which the US$6.84 billion earmarked for Ankara will be transferred to Greece, in the event of failure.

    That, in turn may yet lead to an increase in the flow of migrants out of Turkey, plunging the crisis into new depths.

    With AfD benefitting in the polls amid growing criticism of Merkel's leadership, it is no surprise that Seehofer is distancing his party from hers, but the threat of the CSU standing against her in 2017 marks a new low — not only in her leadership, but in the history of the Union parties.

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    Tags:
    rivalry, domestic politics, migrant crisis, right-wing, crisis, government, election, Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), Alternative for Germany (AfD), Eurozone, Horst Seehofer, Angela Merkel, Germany, Europe
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