CDU picks Merkel ally Laschet as new leader

Berlin, Jan 16 (efe-epa).- The Christian Democratic Union, the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on Saturday chose Armin Laschet to be its new leader.

Laschet, a centrist candidate and current leader of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous, saw off competition from Friedrich Merz, from the party’s right-wing, in the second round of voting.

Norbert Röttgen, another centrist candidate, was eliminated in the first round of voting.

Laschet had come runner up behind Merz in the first round of voting but beat his rival 521 to 466 in the second.

The vote laid out a clear choice between continued Merkel-style centrism and a shift to the right.

Laschet’s adopted a personal tone in his leadership campaign, recalling the mining roots of his family — in stark contrast to multimillionaire Merz — and he warned against polarization, extremism and unrest, such as the type recently seen in the United States with the 6 January storming of the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters.

The CDU leadership reshuffle is a crucial step ahead of presenting a candidate for chancellor in the 26 September general elections. Merkel, in power since 2005, announced she would not seek re-election.

Her aspiring replacement will be agreed between the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, the leader of which, Markus Söder, has expressed interest in an election bid.

Laschet’s new role as CDU leader boosts the chances of him running but the Bavarian leader and health minister Jens Spahn is also a popular figure in German conservative politics, outshone only by Merkel, who has shored up support with her handling of the pandemic.

Merkel led the CDU between 2000-18, when she handed over the reins to the current defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. EFE-EPA


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