BERLIN (AP) — The Bavarian sister-party of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats is positioning itself firmly against the chancellor's open-door policy toward refugees in a bid to win voters angered by the influx of migrants.
The Christian Social Union has always been more conservative than Merkel's party, which is active in the rest of Germany outside Bavaria. The so-called Union bloc comprising the two parties is expected to lose ground to the surging nationalist party Alternative for Germany in next year's national election.
At a meeting Saturday in Munich, CSU party delegates unanimously passed a new program that rejects multiculturalism and demands nation-wide referendums of the kind seen in Switzerland.
The program also reinforces the CSU's demand for an annual cap on the number of refugees Germany takes in. Some 890,000 people applied for asylum in Germany in 2015, with another 213,000 applying in the first nine months of 2016. Many were fleeing hardship and wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Manfred Weber, the CSU's deputy leader, told the Passauer Neue Presse daily that his party won't join another coalition government unless there's a cap on asylum-seekers. The party has previously said that cap should be 200,000 a year.
Party leader Horst Seehofer told news channel n-tv that he expects the CSU to close ranks with Merkel's Christian Democrats ahead of next year's vote, but acknowledged that it may not be possible to agree on all points, including immigration.
Merkel has rejected a fixed cap on asylum-seekers as legally and practically impossible.
The CSU's new program — its first since 2007 — also calls for the Germany army to be able to operate inside the country to fight terrorism.