MUNICH, April 24 Bavarian state premier Horst
Seehofer said on Monday he would stay on as leader of the
Christian Social Union (CSU) to fight what he expects to be a
"very difficult" national election in September and a state poll
As chairman of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Angela
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), Seehofer is nominally the
chancellor's ally, but he has been a thorn in her side for much
of the last two years, criticising her open-door refugee policy.
The 67-year-old had indicated in recent years that he would
not lead the conservative CSU into a state election in Bavaria
in autumn 2018, but senior CSU officials recently urged him to
stay on in his twin roles as party leader and state premier.
"The passion has not deserted me. On the contrary, it is
still there in full," he told reporters in Munich, announcing he
would lead the CSU into the 2018 state vote after all.
Seehofer said he believed the conservatives had a great
chance in this year's federal election, when Merkel is seeking a
fourth term in office, but added: "We are all aware that this
will be a very, very difficult path."
Merkel has refused demands by Seehofer for a cap on migrants
but the conservative allies have drawn closer as the election
approaches and amid a revival in support for the centre-left
Opinion polls show the CDU/CSU alliance - the so-called
'Union' - leading the Social Democrats by around 5 percentage
points ahead of the Sept. 24 federal election.
(Reporting by Joern Poltz and Paul Carrel; Editing by Catherine