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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian state premier and CSU leader Horst Seehofer arrive for a meeting to discuss their differences over refugee policy in Munich, southern Germany, February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

(reuters_tickers)

By Joern Poeltz

MUNICH (Reuters) - The leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies called for improved relations in their troubled conservative alliance on Sunday as the sister parties met to plan a strategy to defeat a resurgent Social Democratic Party (SPD) in September's federal election.

Horst Seehofer, leader of Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has been a thorn in her side for much of the last two years, pressing for a cap on migrants that she will not support.

But a spectacular revival in the Social Democrats' fortunes, after they appointed former European Parliament president Martin Schulz as party leader a week ago, is forcing the conservative "Union" allies to bind together if they are to hold on to power.

"Victory always comes where unity prevails," Seehofer told reporters ahead of a meeting with Merkel.

Merkel has carved two days out of her schedule - Sunday and Monday - to spend meeting the CSU in Munich, underlining the importance she places on improving relations.

Seehofer played down differences between the two conservative parties over migrant policy, saying: "The CSU has always put its own accent on one point or another."

Seehofer's push for better ties with Merkel's CDU came after an opinion poll earlier on Sunday showed a lead in voter support for their conservative alliance over the centre-left SPD had shrunk to a multi-year low of 4 percentage points.

The SPD scored 29 percent in the survey published in newspaper Bild am Sonntag - a six-point jump that Bild said was the biggest pollster Emnid had ever recorded for the party.

Support for the CDU/CSU bloc fell 4 points to 33 percent.

A prime concern for Seehofer has been holding on to the CSU's absolute majority in Bavaria in a regional election in 2018, when he is worried about losing votes to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD).

(Reporting by Joern Poeltz; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

Reuters