German Chancellor Angela Merkel has to implement plans to reduce an unprecedented refugee influx by March or face open rebellion from within her conservative political alliance, former Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber said on Monday.
An increasing number of lawmakers in Merkel's alliance of Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) are openly criticizing the chancellor's open-door migration policy, which led to the arrival of 1.1 million migrants in 2015.
Stoiber, who sought to become chancellor in 2002 and still holds a powerful position in the CSU, told Germany's Sueddeutsche newspaper that Merkel would have to curb the influx by March. Stoiber dodged the question of whether a failure to do so would result in her ouster.
Support for Merkel's immigration policies will be tested in March, when Germany holds three state elections. The chancellor's CDU-CSU alliance has been losing voters to the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has campaigned on a platform of stricter immigration controls and a crackdown on criminal asylum seekers.
The AfD, which has been plagued by internal power struggles since it was founded on an anti-euro platform in 2013, is currently polling at between 9 and 11 per cent. It made gains earlier this month after it emerged that asylum seekers had been involved in string of sexual assaults in several German cities on New Year's Eve.
The archconservative Stoiber told Sueddeutsche that the country's southern border with Austria should be closed in order to curb the ongoing influx of migrants. Merkel has repeatedly said that this would undermine German law, which grants victims of political persecution the right of asylum.
Merkel is seeking a deal to resettle asylum seekers across the European Union, thus avoiding a breakdown of free travel and commerce within the bloc. She also wants to work with EU partners to secure the bloc's outer borders and to fulfil a 3-billion-euro (3.3-billion-dollar) aid pledge to Turkey, which is hosting more than 2 million Syrian refugees.
Conservative lawmakers in the Bundestag have summarized their grievances in relation to Merkel's migration policies in a letter which is due to be circulated Monday.