Merkel’s Bavarian allies warn SPD to stick to deal on migrants

From left: Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania’s State Premier and politician of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Manuela Schwesig, designated next leader of the SDP, Andrea Nahles and Brandenburg's State Premier and politician of the SDP, Dietmar Woidke talk to the media prior the beginning of a regional conference of the SPD in Potsdam, Germany on Saturday. (AFP) 
Updated 24 February 2018
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Merkel’s Bavarian allies warn SPD to stick to deal on migrants

BERLIN: Top officials in the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Saturday warned the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) that failure to stick to agreements on migrants could cause the collapse of the potential new German government.
SPD members, who have the final say on the coalition agreement for Europe’s largest economy, must vote by March 2 in a postal ballot, with results to be made public on March 4.
Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, who heads Bavaria’s CSU, told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that new legislation was planned to make it easier to return failed asylum seekers to Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, and to set up migrant centers in border areas until asylum applications could be processed.
If the SPD refused to support these laws after agreeing to a coalition, “that would be the end of the government,” Seehofer told the newspaper. He said it would be unacceptable if the SPD did not stick to the agreements made with conservatives.
Seehofer, who is expected to become interior minister, told the paper the legislation would be brought in quickly — before the Bavarian state election on Oct. 14.
Bavaria’s CSU conservative party, which lost 10 percentage points in September’s national election, has vowed to recapture votes lost to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party with a hard-line stance on migration and by emphasizing traditional conservative values.
As part of the coalition talks, SPD politicians reluctantly agreed to limit future migration to a range of 180,000 to 220,000 after the influx of over a million people in 2015 and 2016.
It remains uncertain if SPD members will approve the renewed tie-up with conservatives.
If they do not, Germany may well see Merkel form a minority government rather than brave a new election at a time when the anti-immigrant AfD has improved its position in the polls from September’s election.
The AfD became the first far-right party to enter Parliament in over half a century, buoyed by widespread frustration about Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open the doors to many mainly Muslim migrants.
Seehofer also criticized Merkel for her plan to announce ministerial posts for her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) ahead of a party meeting on Feb. 26.
“Posts should only be distributed when a government is in place,” he said. He declined to say which politicians from his party would likely get ministerial posts.
Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Soeder, who is due to succeed Seehofer as premier, told the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper group the SPD faced a “historic downfall” if members voted against the coalition and a new election was called.
He said some SPD politicians were oblivious to the views of working class Germans, the party’s traditional base, especially on the issue of migration.
“Many (workers) have the impression that we need to limit migration and that we can’t spend billions on refugees and forget our own population,” he said.
A new poll conducted for broadcaster ZDF showed the conservatives with 33 percent support, a gain of 2 points, while the SPD dropped two percentage points to 17 percent.
Two-thirds of conservatives and SPD supporters backed a renewal of the coalition that has ruled Germany since 2013, and 78 percent of SPD supporters said they expected members to back a coalition in the postal ballot, the poll showed.


Malaysia says it won’t host any more events involving Israel

Updated 42 min 20 sec ago
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Malaysia says it won’t host any more events involving Israel

  • Malaysia is a strong supporter of the Palestinian plight
  • The government said Israeli swimmers cannot join the competition in July that serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: Malaysia’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the government will not budge over a ban on Israeli athletes in a para swimming competition and has decided that the country will not host any events in the future involving Israel.
Malaysia, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, is among the predominantly Muslim countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The government has said Israeli swimmers cannot join the competition in eastern Sarawak state in July, which serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the Cabinet affirmed last week that no Israeli delegates can enter Malaysia for sporting or other events in solidarity with the Palestinians.
“The Cabinet has also decided that Malaysia will not host any more events involving Israel or its representatives. This is to me, a decision to reflect the government’s firm stance over the Israeli issue,” Saifuddin said after meeting a coalition of Muslim groups. The groups submitted a memorandum urging the government to stick to the ban and not to repeat mistakes in the past of allowing Israel delegates into the country.
Saifuddin said the Palestinian cause was not just a religious issue but also a human right violation.
“It’s about fighting on behalf of the oppressed,” he said.
Israel’s Paralympic Committee did not immediately reply to an email requesting comment on Malaysia’s move.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said the International Paralympic Committee can withdraw Malaysia’s right to host the July 29-Aug 4 championship involving athletes from some 70 countries if they wish to do so. The committee has said it was disappointed with Mahathir’s comments but hopes to find a solution to the issue.
This isn’t the first time Malaysia has stopped Israeli athletes from competing in a sports event. In 2015, two Israeli windsurfers had to withdraw from a competition on the resort island of Langkawi after they were refused visas to enter. The following year, Malaysia decided not to host a 2017 conference of the world football governing body FIFA because an Israeli delegation was scheduled to participate.
But earlier this year, the government allowed a high-level Israeli delegation to attend a UN conference in Kuala Lumpur, sparking widespread anger among Muslim groups.
Some 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims. Many have taken to the streets in the past to support the Palestinian cause.