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Bavarian leader Horst Seehofer, one of the most important critics of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy, has put off his planned retirement and will lead his Christian Social Union party in this year’s national parliamentary polls and the 2018 Bavarian state election.

Reversing earlier pledges to step down before the Bavarian vote, the 67-year-old Mr Seehofer announced on Monday that he would remain in command, in a decision that will bring little comfort to the potential successors angling for his job — or to Ms Merkel.

“The passion has not deserted me. On the contrary, it is still there in full,” the Bavarian state premier and CSU chairman told reporters in Munich, announcing he would lead the CSU into the 2018 state vote after all.

The CSU is a long-term political partner to Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, sitting alongside it the national government while keeping a tight grip on Bavaria. While the two parties have argued from time to time, the dispute over migration policy brought fears that they might split and separately fight the coming parliamentary elections.

But this year’s recovery of the Social Democrats, under their new leader Martin Schulz, has persuaded Mr Seehofer to set aside his misgivings about refugee policy and back Ms Merkel as a a common candidate for the chancellorship.

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