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World

REUTERS
February 15, 2018

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Merkel’s Bavarian allies vow to win back right-wing voters

PASSAU, Germany: Bavarian conservatives launched a drive on Wednesday to win back right-wing voters in a regional election in October, vowing to increase deportations of failed asylum seekers, tighten border security and beef up scrutiny of foreign funding for mosques.

Markus Soeder, slated to take over as leader of the Christian Social Union and become premier of the prosperous southern German state, won thunderous applause with an impassioned speech to a rally in Passau, near the Austrian border crossed by many Muslim migrants in 2015 and 2016.Soeder, now regional finance and homeland minister, railed against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which eroded the CSU’s traditional dominance in Bavaria in the Sept 24 national election.

He pledged to answer concerns of voters unnerved by the influx of over a million mostly Muslim migrants. The CSU and its national sister party, Merkel’s Christian Democrats, both bled support to the anti-immigrant AfD, which became the first far-right party to enter parliament in half a century after the September elections. "This is not about shifting to the right. It’s about returning to our past credibility," Soeder told an annual Ash Wednesday rally, attended this year by over 4,000 people of all ages, many clad in traditional leather pants and dirndl dresses.

Soeder delivered a thinly veiled jab at conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, noting that he had promised to push through a two-term limit for Bavarian premiers and such a restriction would also benefit Germany at federal level.

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