German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a public ban on the full-face veil as her political party gears up to back her for a fourth term in office.
The suggested policy won Merkel overwhelming applause on Tuesday from about 1,000 delegates ahead of her conservative Christian Democrats’ (CDU) party conference vote, which is expected to return her for the ninth time as its chief.
She said the Muslim full-face veil was not compatible with German culture.
“Here we say ‘show your face’. So full veiling is not appropriate here. It should be prohibited wherever legally possible,” she told the crowd to cheers.
A year ago, the CDU rejected such a ban.
The party has already begun drawing up plans for banning the full veil in areas such as courts, police checks, and while driving vehicles.
Merkel also told delegates that last year’s influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees would not happen again.
“A situation like that [in] the summer of 2015 can and should not be repeated,” Merkel said at the two-day conference in the western industrial city of Essen. “This was and remains our declared political goal.”
She told the conference refugees had found protection in Germany against war, persecution, and lack of perspective in their troubled homelands. But she also said “not every refugee can stay”.
Merkel’s promises come a month after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States and at a time when Europe is reeling from a surge in far-right populism and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
Delegates celebrated the chancellor’s one-and-half hour speech with an 11-minute standing ovation.
The CDU’s moves to forge a stricter approach to refugees at its conference comes in the wake of a string of state election successes by the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD).
In particular, the AfD has siphoned votes from the CDU after capitalising on anger in parts of the German electorate over Merkel’s liberal refugee policy.
Polls show nevertheless that her CDU is the clear frontrunner in the general election, expected in September 2017.
The AfD is currently polling at about 12 percent nationally.
Merkel’s government has attempted to address public fears surrounding last year’s record influx of nearly 1.1 million refugees and migrants, mostly from predominantly Muslim countries.
Merkel, who has led Germany for 11 years, last month confirmed she would run for a fourth term but acknowledged the election would be “more difficult” than any other she has contested.