Laschet gets backing to lead Germany’s conservatives into election

(Update 1: Adds news of Soeder concession, Laschet win, re-leads, alters headline, adds detail throughout)

Berlin, Apr 20 (EFE).- Germany’s conservative bloc on Tuesday chose centrist candidate Armin Laschet to run in the September general election after his opponent, Markus Soeder, withdrew from the leadership race.

Laschet had already got the backing of his own party, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, but had to see off competition from Soeder, leader of the CDU’s Bavarian sister outfit, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, where he is also head of the regional government.

“Only a strong union can work well,” Soeder after conceding the race to Laschet.

In a secret ballot earlier this morning, Laschet obtained the vote of 31 party members, while nine voted in favor of Soeder and six abstained.

The Bavarian leader had promised to abide by the decision of the CDU.

Laschet had called the meeting of the CDU, the party he has led since January, to resolve the standoff between him and Soeder.

On April 11, both officially declared their bids to run for chancellor at the general elections on 26 September, the first since 2005 in which Merkel will not lead the conservatives.

They gave themselves a week to reach an agreement on who would lead the CDU/CSU bloc in the elections.

The deadline expired Sunday without either having withdrawn in favor of the other or having agreed on a solution.

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