The leader of Germany's Christian Social Union (CSU), Horst Seehofer, is facing increasing pressure after the party lost ground in regional elections in its Bavarian heartland.
Some two-thirds of Germans believe that Seehofer should resign both as CSU head and as interior minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, according to a poll carried out by the Forsa group for the broadcasters RTL and n-tv.
Seehofer has been a thorn in Merkel's side since 2015, with criticism of her decision to open German borders to almost one million refugees, most of them fleeing war in the Middle East. But the CSU's disastrous performance last Sunday, its weakest since 1950, has raised questions about whether he should stand down as party leader and interior minister in the national government. The calls grew louder last week, with a senior member of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in Merkel's coalition, calling Seehofer "miscast" as interior minister and a senior CSU figure suggesting he should step down.
In Bavaria in southern Germany, where the CSU has been politically dominant for decades, 62 per cent of people surveyed, and even 67 per cent of CSU supporters, said they thought Seehofer should go.
The CSU lost its absolute majority in the Bavarian state government in elections on Oct. 14, but was still the biggest party. Before the Bavaria vote, the CSU pushed the coalition, Merkel's fourth and probably final government, close to collapsing twice, first in an argument over immigration and then in a scandal over Germany's former domestic spymaster
Speaking on local television on Sunday, Seehofer himself suggested he might resign in order to avoid being blamed entirely for the damage to the CSU's political fortunes.
"I won't play the scapegoat again. You can criticize me, but to reduce it all to Horst Seehofer and make him responsible for everything, I personally will not play along with that," Seehofer said, dpa reported. Of those surveyed by Forsa, 35 per cent said the CSU should leave the federal coalition and go into opposition.
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