German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Sunday that she will not set a cap on the number of refugees migrating to Germany from North Africa and the Middle East, CNN reports.
“On the issue of an upper limit, my position is clear. I won’t accept one,” Merkel told Germany’s ARD
The refugee influx into Germany has been a hot-button issue, and could divide support for Merkel in the federal elections taking place in just two months.
Merkel’s coalition must be aligned with the more conservative party Christian Social Union in order for her to remain chancellor after the September elections. The CSU firmly believes a refugee limit is necessary, though it will refuse to make the issue a red line in potential coalition agreements.
“The [refugee] cap is and remains a goal of the CSU,” the party’s leader Horst Seehofer said in a statement Monday.
In December, however, Seehofer promised to let in no more than 200,000 refugees per year if the CSU has a majority coalition in the German government.
This is not the first rift to come between the two parties in the last month. In June, Merkel received backlash from the CSU after she changed her longtime stance against same-sex marriage, and permitted a parliamentary vote on the issue. A law was passed days later allowing full martial benefits to same-sex couples.
Merkel broke her accord with the CSU not to vote on the issue until after the September elections. Hans Reichhart, member of the regional parliament in Bavaria, southern Germany, commented on Merkel’s decision, “This agreement was broken.”
Concerns about the influx of refugees and migrants is by far the most pressing issue to German voters in the upcoming elections. According to German poll group Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, almost half of Germans surveyed on July 7 said refugees were the most important issue. It got more than three times as many responses as the second most mentioned issue, social inequality (14 percent).
In 2015, Merkel’s “open-door” refugee policy saw nearly a million migrants make their way into Germany. In 2016, the number declined, but was still over 300,000, according to the Guardian.
The next year, migrant crime rate rose by 50 percent, including a number of notable terrorist attacks in Germany committed by migrants.
In July of 2016, an axe-wielding Afghan migrant injured five on a train. The same month, a Syrian suicide bomber killed himself and injured 15 more. On December 19th, a Tunisian asylum seeker drove a truck into a market stand in Berlin, killing 12.
The German federal elections will take place on September 24th, 2017. Angela Merkel has been the Chancellor since 2005, and hopes to stay in power despite leading a coalition fractured by policy disagreements on consequential issues.