BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday her centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) should not share power with the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
"Of course, I also rule this out categorically," Merkel said during a panel discussion after a senior CDU member in the eastern state of Saxony suggested that a coalition with the AfD should not be excluded in next year's regional elections.
Merkel's decision to welcome more than a million migrants in 2015 caused a popular backlash and propelled the AfD into the national parliament following last year's federal election.
In regional elections next year in the eastern states of Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia, the AfD is expected to make strong gains at the cost of Merkel's conservatives and her centre-left coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD).
The rise of the AfD could make it harder to form coalition governments in regional elections in Bavaria and Hesse next month.
Merkel said the influx of asylum seekers in 2015 had "somewhat split" the country.
She insisted her centre-right CDU/CSU alliance had to draw a line when it came to the AfD and politicians must make clear that hate against foreigners could not be tolerated.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Andrew Roche)