Angela Merkel is struggling to contain a Bavarian rebellion against her handling of the refugee crisis, as the leader of the sister party to the German chancellor’s Christian Democrats accused her of pursuing a “rule of injustice”.
In highly unusual comments for a member of a governing coalition, Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, told Passauer Neue Presse newspaper: “We don’t currently have a state of law and order. It is a rule of injustice.”
“Rule of injustice” (herrschaft des unrechts) is a loaded phrase in Germany, where it evokes the term unrechtsstaat, normally only used to describe dictatorships or oppressive regimes such as the German Democratic Republic (GDR).
Seehofer’s comments represent the latest stage in an increasingly confrontational relationship between his party and the government. Last week, CSU politicians travelled to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin, a visit the German government’s coordinator for Russian relations described as “politically damaging”.
Last October, Seehofer took the unprecedented step of threatening to take legal action against Merkel’s refugee policy. Seehofer has since reiterated his threat, saying he would take his complaint to the country’s constitutional court as soon as the end of February, telling the broadcaster ZDF: “We cannot welcome another million refugees this year.”
Katarina Barley, the general secretary of Merkel’s other coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), described Seehofer’s comments as confused and irritating: “He is either drawing some outrageous historical parallels or he just doesn’t have a sense of history”.
Thomas Oppermann, the head of the SPD’s party group, tweeted: “Dear Horst Seehofer, Germany is not a dictatorship, and Merkel isn’t [former GDR leader] Honecker.”
While Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the CSU are traditional allies, Merkel’s party does not strictly require the support of the one-state sister party to form a governing coalition. The CSU has enjoyed uninterrupted rule in Bavaria since 1957, but only made up 7.4% of a 41.5% majority for the CDU at the 2013 federal elections.
The latest row comes as Germany’s governing coalition has reached an impasse over a new asylum law, which partly aims to make it easier to deport criminal asylum seekers. The original proposal would have introduced a two-year waiting period until refugees who were not “personally, urgently persecuted” could be joined by their families.
But in recent weeks the CDU and SPD have been at loggerheads over whether this delay would also apply to minors who have arrived in Germany without their relatives, with the CSU said to oppose the latest compromise.