Former German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich on Saturday accused Merkel of allowing a gap to open to the right of the Christian Social Union (CSU), which he said was now being exploited by populist groups campaigning on an anti-immigration and euroskeptic ticket.

In an interview with German news magazine Spiegel, Friedrich noted the rise of the "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West" movement, also known PEGIDA, as well as the euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The former interior minister said Merkel had conceded too much to the left - including her coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) - while doing too little to address voters' concerns about immigration, the euro and national identity. As a result, he said, new groupings on the right had gained a foothold.

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