Germany's chancellor has attacked her Social Democrat rivals over the migration crisis and the party's stance on social welfare. Merkel has been campaigning ahead of an election in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
A week after Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) saw a surprise landslide victory in the Saarland state election, the conservative party leader set her sights on the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia on Saturday at the CDU party conference.
As Germany's most populous state with 18 million citizens, the NRW election on May 14 is being widely billed as a final indicator of party popularity ahead of Germany's federal election on September 24. In Saarland, the Social Democrats (SPD) didn't make gains among voters despite opinion polls at the national level suggesting the party has gotten a big boost from naming former European Parliament President Martin Schulz its chairman.
The northern state of Schleswig-Holstein is also due to hold a state election on May 7.
Close race to come
According to the latest federal election poll, published by Emnid on Saturday, Merkel's CDU and the SPD are currently neck-and-neck with 33 percent each. Following behind in joint second place is the leftist Linke party and the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), both on eight percent.
Speaking at the CDU party congress in Münster on Saturday, Merkel criticized NRW's rulling coalition between the SPD and Greens, claiming that with regards to internal security, "countless states" had done better than NRW's government in Düsseldorf.
Merkel accused the NRW Interior Minister Ralf Jäger of failures both in Cologne's New Year's Eve attacks in 2016, as well as in the case of the Berlin Christmas market terrorist attack in December last year.
North Rhine-Westphalia has made a "quite negative contribution" to a shift toward the negative regarding the mood toward the refugee crisis in Germany, Merkel claimed.
'Outdated idea of justice'
Responding to the key aims laid out by SPD chancellor candidate Schulz last week - which focused heavily on social injustices - the chancellor went on the reproach the SPD for having an "outdated idea of justice."
"They talk about justice - but forget that justice does not work without innovation," Merkel said before rejecting the SPD's calls for an extension of qualification measures for unemployment allowance.
It is not a question of "making unemployment better," Merkel said, "But getting people to work and keep them in work."
ksb/gsw (AFP, AP, Reuters)