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Angela Merkel Fosters Trust within Her Party Members | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel- Reuters

Cologne- German Chancellor Angela Merkel won re-election as chairwoman of her Christian Democrats (CDU) on Tuesday in Essen with 89.5 percent of votes cast by just under 1,000 party delegates, her second-worst showing since taking over the party in 2000; giving her a boost as she seeks a fourth term in office next year.

The endorsement fell short of the 96.7 percent Merkel won when she was last re-elected two years ago.

Her decision last year to open Germany’s doors to some 1 million migrants sapped some grassroots support and has decreased the CDU’s poll ratings.

Merkel’s lowest winning score in election as chairwoman was 88.4 percent in 2004.

Merkel delivered a speech that took aim at conservative critics of her liberal asylum policies even while emphatically embracing a proposal to ban the burqa.

“In interpersonal communication, which plays a fundamental role here, we show our face,” she said in reference to the Islamic full-body covering that, while rarely worn in Germany, retains symbolic resonance for much of the public, and has emerged as a touchstone for the far right.

“And that’s why a full veil is inappropriate in our country. It should be banned wherever legally possible. It does not belong in our country.”

Those comments were met with resounding applause from fellow members of her center-right Christian Democratic Union.

On controversial issues, in particular refugees, she signaled little willingness to change course beyond strengthening the deportation rules to allow for speedier repatriation of asylum seekers whose petitions are rejected.

While insisting Germany had been right to offer refuge to people fleeing a war zone in Syria, she said: “Not all of those who have come here can and will stay.”

Merkel was trying to shore up her support among conservatives in her party who were frustrated by her open-door policy on refugees.

Merkel’s decision to keep borders open to thousands of refugees stranded in Hungary last September had led to a backlash, not least from her sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union.

However, during her 80-minute speech Merkel said “a situation like the one of summer 2015 cannot, must not and will not be repeated”.

She said: “That’s what we have been working towards for many months – for the good of those here in Germany, and for the good of the refugees, so that they don’t fall victim to ruthless people-smugglers.”