Bavaria’s state premier took aim at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy on Saturday, rejecting her “we can do this” mantra just two days after she defended the message following Islamist attacks in Germany.
The comments from Horst Seehofer, whose Christian Social Union is the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s conservatives, exacerbate the chancellor’s difficulty in standing by a policy that her critics have blamed for the attacks and which risks undermining her popularity ahead of federal elections next year.
Five attacks in Germany since July 18 have left 15 people dead, including four assailants, and dozens injured. Two of the attackers had links to Islamist militancy, officials say.
“‘We can do this’ – I cannot, with the best will, adopt this phrase as my own,” Seehofer told reporters after a meeting of his party.
The comments from Seehofer, who said following the attacks that “all our predictions have been proven right”, came after Merkel on Thursday defiantly repeated the “we can do this” mantra and vowed not to bend her refugee policy.
“The problem is too big for that and the attempts at a solution thus far too unsatisfactory,” said Seehofer, whose state bore the brunt of the attacks. “Restrictions on immigration are a condition for security in this country.”
Over a million migrants have entered Germany in the past year, many fleeing war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
Merkel on Thursday set out a nine-point plan to respond to the attacks, including measures to recruit more staff for security agencies, and an early warning system for the radicalisation of refugees.
But the chancellor’s popularity, eroded by the refugee crisis, is likely to suffer again after a temporary boost following Britain’s vote last month to leave the European Union.
Merkel faced criticism on social media after failing to react until the next day – and 17 hours after US President Barack Obama – to the bloodiest of the attacks, in Munich, where an 18-year-old German-Iranian gunman killed nine people.