BERLIN: A tense truce within German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative camp imploded Thursday after her hardline interior minister defended protests marred by neo-Nazi violence and blasted immigration as “the mother of all political problems”. The latest shots across Merkel’s bow came just two months after the minister, Horst Seehofer, threatened to torpedo her ruling coalition over the explosive border issue.
An uneasy calm that had taken hold during the summer holidays shattered in the aftermath of a fatal knife attack against a 35-year-old German man in the eastern city of Chemnitz in late August.
Three asylum seekers – two Iraqis and a Syrian – are suspects in the killing.
Far-right groups and thousands of local citizens took to the streets in the days after the stabbing, with a number of participants attacking people who looked foreign, and showing the illegal Nazi salute.
As Germany’s top law enforcer, Seehofer had faced calls to condemn the ugly scenes of marauding mobs that also assaulted reporters and police.
He reserved judgement until Thursday’s incendiary interview, in which he said he wished he could have joined the demonstrations.
“There is agitation and outrage among the public over this killing that I can understand,” Seehofer told the daily Rheinische Post.
“If I weren’t a minister, I would have hit the streets as a citizen – of course not with the radicals though.”
Seehofer insisted he had “zero tolerance for forces that seize on these developments to call for violence or to actually commit it, including against the police”.