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BERLIN – Leaders of the conservative party that governs Germany's prosperous southern state of Bavaria urged members Saturday to close ranks ahead of next month's regional elections, in which the Christian Social Union is projected to suffer heavy losses.
"In the next four weeks we need confidence not fear, unity not bickering, commitment not complacency," Horst Seehofer, who heads the center-right CSU, said at a party convention in Munich.
Recent opinion polls predict the CSU could win just 35 percent of the vote on Oct. 14. In 2013, the party received almost 48 percent of votes, allowing it to govern alone.
Among the reasons cited for its electoral decline are the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which has campaigned heavily against the influx of migrants in recent years, and a series of gaffes by Seehofer that have driven voters to other mainstream parties.
Earlier this month, Seehofer — who is Germany's interior minister — said the migrant issue was "the mother of all political problems " and backed the embattled head of the country's domestic intelligence agency in a public spat over anti-migrant violence in the eastern city of Chemnitz.
A coalition of more than a dozen groups representing migrants and their descendants in Germany released an open letter Saturday calling for Seehofer either to take a stronger stand against far-right extremism or to resign.
Bavaria's governor, Markus Soeder, said the Christian Social Union's poor showing in pre-election opinion polls could energize the party's supporters, who don't want the state governed by a coalition, as is the norm elsewhere in Germany.
The CSU has largely ruled Bavaria alone for over 60 years, but is part of Chancellor Angela Merkel's three-party coalition that governs at the national level.
"Fight, fight, fight," Soeder told party members at the Munich convention. "It would be a shame to leave Bavaria to the wrong hands."