German election: Merkel launches coalition talks

Immigration is expected to feature as German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds talks on forming a coalition after her party’s disappointing performance in September’s election.

Talks start with the CSU, the sister party of her Christian Democrats.

The CSU has called for a cap on refugee numbers, blaming Mrs Merkel’s “open-door” policy for the success of the nationalist AfD in the election.

The AfD entered parliament for the first time, with 12.6% of the vote.

It is increasingly seen as far-right in tone with the focus on immigration and Islam.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) and CSU, or Christian Social Union, are hoping to sort out their policy programme before they can begin talks with other parties.

The CSU leader and Bavarian premier, Horst Seehofer, has called for migrant numbers to be restricted to 200,000 a year after Mrs Merkel allowed in 1.3 million mainly Middle Eastern migrants and refugees from 2015.

The Chancellor is opposed to caps but has said she does not want a repeat of the big influx seen at the height of the migrant crisis.

The CSU lost votes to the AfD and its vote share fell by 10 percentage points to 38.8%.

The Bavarian party, which faces state elections next year, has developed a 10-point plan, seen as proposing a shift to the right, Germany’s ARD reports.

“We must fight the AfD hard, and fight for its voters,” the policy document says.

Before the election, Mrs Merkel governed in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), but with her reduced majority and the SPD’s refusal to govern with her again, she must look elsewhere to form another government.

She is expected to approach the liberal, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens to win agreement on a so-called Jamaica coalition – the parties’ colours are the same as those of the Jamaican flag.

Correspondents say it may prove tricky to reconcile the opposing positions of the left-leaning Greens with those of the CSU and the FDP.

Mrs Merkel has acknowledged that coalition negotiations will be “difficult”.