But by Sunday evening it was looking as though she had bested one of her harshest critics on migration, Horst Seehofer, the head of Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, and her current interior minister.
After a long day of maneuvering, Seehofer offered to resign, according to party sources cited by the Reuters news agency. He repeatedly postponed a news conference to announce his decision, and some members of his party were still attempting to persuade him to stay on, Reuters reported.
If he does go, rather than challenge her leadership, it will stun even Merkel’s most sympathetic supporters.
Seehofer has long been a thorn in the chancellor’s side, having taken her to task for admitting hundreds of thousands of migrants stranded in Hungary in 2015.
“It was a mistake that will follow us for a long time,” he said at the time. “I don’t see any chance to get the cork back in the bottle.”
Seehofer’s objections go far beyond the common European complaint about migrants as foreign freeloaders. Earlier this year, when he assumed his role as interior minister, he said: “Islam does not belong in Germany.”
A resignation would eliminate the main opponent to Merkel’s key proposals for changes in asylum policy and for further European integration.