German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday ruled out imposing a ceiling for the number of refugees Germany will take should she win September elections, highlighting a key differences in her conservative political bloc regarding asylum seekers.
"I do not intend to change the position here," Merkel told a press conference in Munich after her Christian Democrats' (CDU) Bavarian-based allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), agreed to back her as their common chancellor candidate at the election.
Monday's agreement between the CDU and CSU to draw up a common party election platform with Merkel as their standard-bearer is also aimed at heading off a new surge in support for the Social Democrats (SPD).
But, despite the attempt by Merkel and CSU leader Horst Seehofer to present a united front at Monday's press conference, their two parties failed to bridge their differences on imposing a limit on refugees.
The sharp rise in support for the SPD comes after the left-leaning party surprised the nation's political establishment by nominating former European Parliament president Martin Schulz to lead the party in the September 24 election.
While Schulz is a well-established figure on the European political stage, he remains somewhat unknown in Germany, leading analysts to suggest that his outsider status has added to his current political appeal.
Merkel said she respected her new SPD challenger.
"I have approached my challengers in all elections with respect," she said.
Merkel's CDU backed her as its candidate for chancellor at a party conference in December, but the CSU had not declared its support until this week's meeting.
The two-day meeting between CDU and CSU leaders, which wound up on Monday, was aimed at ending months of tensions between the two parties, which normally mount joint national election campaigns.
Relations between the two parties have been strained since Seehofer spearheaded criticism of Merkel's decision in September 2015 to open Germany's borders to allow hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers into the nation.
Since then, Merkel, 62, has repeatedly rebuffed Seehofer's demand that she impose a ceiling on the number of refugees, opening up a deep division between the CDU-CSU.
Pollsters say the tensions in the CDU-CSU over Merkel's refugee stance has contributed to a sharp fall in support for both parties.