BERLIN (Reuters) - Top officials in the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Saturday warned the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) that failure to stick to agreements on migrants could cause the collapse of the potential new German government.
SPD members, who have the final say on the coalition agreement for Europe’s largest economy, must vote by March 2 in a postal ballot, with results to be made public on March 4.
Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, who heads Bavaria’s CSU, told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that new legislation was planned to make it easier to return failed asylum seekers to Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, and to set up migrant centers in border areas until asylum applications could be processed.
If the SPD refused to support these laws after agreeing to a coalition, “that would be the end of the government”, Seehofer told the newspaper. He said it would be unacceptable if the SPD did not stick to the agreements made with conservatives.
Seehofer, who is expected to become interior minister, told the paper the legislation would be brought in quickly - before the Bavarian state election on Oct. 14.
Bavaria’s CSU conservative party, which lost 10 percentage points in September’s national election, has vowed to recapture votes lost to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party with a hardline stance on migration and by emphasizing traditional conservative values.
As part of the coalition talks, SPD politicians reluctantly agreed to limit future migration to a range of 180,000 to 220,000 after the influx of over a million people in 2015 and 2016.
It remains uncertain if SPD members will approve the renewed tie-up with conservatives.
If they do not, Germany may well see Merkel form a minority government rather than brave a new election at a time when the anti-immigrant AfD has improved its position in the polls from September’s election.
The AfD became the first far-right party to enter parliament in over half a century, buoyed by widespread frustration about Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open the doors to many mainly Muslim migrants.
Seehofer also criticized Merkel for her plan to announce ministerial posts for her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) ahead of a party meeting on Feb. 26.
“Posts should only be distributed when a government is in place,” he said. He declined to say which politicians from his party would likely get ministerial posts.
Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Soeder, who is due to succeed Seehofer as premier, told the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper group the SPD faced a “historic downfall” if members voted against the coalition and a new election was called.
He said some SPD politicians were oblivious to the views of working class Germans, the party’s traditional base, especially on the issue of migration.
“Many (workers) have the impression that we need to limit migration and that we can’t spend billions on refugees and forget our own population,” he said.
A new poll conducted for broadcaster ZDF showed the conservatives with 33 percent support, a gain of 2 points, while the SPD dropped two percentage points to 17 percent.
Two-thirds of conservatives and SPD supporters backed a renewal of the coalition that has ruled Germany since 2013, and 78 percent of SPD supporters said they expected members to back a coalition in the postal ballot, the poll showed.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Alison Williams