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1ST LEAD Merkel's CSU allies vow to win back votes from right-wing party By Andrew McCathie, dpa

Europe
14.02.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Berlin (dpa) - Markus Soeder, the designated premier of Germany‘s southern state of Bavaria and member of Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s conservative bloc, vowed Wednesday he would win back voters who switched to the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Soeder, who is due to take over as Bavarian premier by the end of next month, was speaking in Germany‘s traditional Ash Wednesday beerhall-style speeches during which the nation‘s political leaders exchange verbal blows.

"There can be no democratically legitimate party to the right of us," declared Soeder, a member of Bavaria‘s Christian Social Union (CSU), quoting past party leader Franz-Josef Strauss.

"That does not mean shifting to the right," Soeder said. "That simply means returning to the old credibility."

Soeder was nominated Bavarian premier in December after current state leader Horst Seehofer said he was stepping down this quarter.

Soeder‘s speech came ahead of what is expected to be a tough campaign for the October election in Bavaria. The AfD is projected to turn in a strong showing by snatching votes from the CSU.

With about 8 months to go before the election, polls show the CSU capturing about 40 per cent of the vote with the AfD scoring between 10 and 12 per cent.

"The AfD is not a substitute for the CSU," Soeder said.

With a history dating back to the 16th century, this year‘s Ash Wednesday speeches came as Merkel‘s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) struggle to contain the fallout from last week‘s contentious coalition agreement.

The deal struck between the CDU and the SPD included the decision to grant three top ministries to the SPD - a move that triggered an outcry in Merkel‘s party.

The chancellor is due to speak later on Wednesday as part of the Ash Wednesday round of speeches.

As Soeder took aim at the AfD, the anti-Islam party‘s chief Joerg Meuthen lashed out at Merkel‘s CDU and the party‘s CSU allies.

"Today the ‘C‘ in the name of CDU as well as the CSU no longer appears to be a symbol of a Christian attitude," Meuthen said. "We should assume that this ‘C‘ is in fact the crescent moon of Islam."

Merkel‘s speech, to be held at a sports centre in her north-eastern German electorate, comes amid calls from critics in the CDU for her to set out her succession plans after more than 12 years in power.

 

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