Sigmar Gabriel has drawn criticism for his recent comments about Angela Merkel's refugee policies. In an interview on Saturday, the vice chancellor called Merkel's policies "inconceivable."
Both Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) had strong words for Gabriel on Monday, just days after the vice chancellor criticized Merkel's approach to dealing with the influx of refugees over the past year.
In snippets of an interview with German broadcaster ZDF released on Saturday, Gabriel said the chancellor has "underestimated" the challenge of dealing with the more than one million refugees that have entered the country over the past year.
"We have always said that it's inconceivable for Germany to take in a million people every year," said Gabriel, who is head of the Social Democrats (SPD) - the CDU's junior coalition partner - as well as the government's economic minister. Last year, Gabriel had followed the CDU's line and opposed a cap on the number of refugees allowed into Germany.
The vice chancellor also took shots at Merkel for constantly repeating her slogan "We can do this," saying it wasn't enough. He said the government needs to set the right conditions to allow the government to actually manage the crisis, but the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) have consistently blocked such efforts.
Gabriel's comments didn't sit well with leaders across Germany's political spectrum, who accused the vice chancellor of lying and pandering as the country gears up for federal elections next year.
"After following Merkel's policies every step of the way, slandering the AfD for its warnings and accusing the CSU of fear-mongering over its desire to implement a cap on the number of refugees, Sigmar Gabriel is now suddenly demanding a cap and criticizing the chancellor," said the AfD in a statement on its Facebook page.
The party, which doesn't hold seats in the Bundestag but has won seats in eight of Germany's regional parliaments, went on to call Gabriel a "turncoat."
Peter Tauber, the CDU's general secretary, also sharply criticized Gabriel, saying his "shamelessness knows no bounds."
"Gabriel should be reminded that as Economic Minister he swore an oath to the German people, not to the SPD or to the political left," Tauber said.