Armin Laschet elected leader of German CDU

Vote gives premier of North Rhine-Westphalia a good shot at succeeding Angela Merkel as chancellor.

Armin Laschet elected leader of German CDU

BERLIN — Germany’s governing Christian Democrats (CDU) on Saturday chose Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, as their new leader, signaling that the center-right party intends to maintain Angela Merkel’s moderate course after her expected departure in the fall.

Laschet defeated corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz by 521 votes to 466 in a run-off vote at an online-only party conference, held in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. A third candidate, Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, was eliminated in a first round of voting.

The victory puts Laschet, a francophone former MEP, in a strong position to become the conservative bloc’s candidate for chancellor. However, polls suggest that most conservative voters want Bavarian premier Markus Söder, the leader of the CDU’s sister party, to become the next chancellor. A decision on who will run as their joint candidate is expected in March.

“I appreciate how much responsibility is associated with this office,” Laschet said in brief remarks after the vote in which he thanked Merz and Röttgen. The final result gave Laschet almost 53 percent of the nearly 1,000 delegate votes.

Laschet’s win ends a long phase of uncertainty for Germany’s pre-eminent political party following the sudden resignation nearly a year ago of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel’s hand-picked successor. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is Germany’s defense minister, stepped down after about a year in the post, complaining, among other things, that she didn’t receive enough support from Merkel, still the dominant figure in the party.

The party originally intended to select a successor for Kramp-Karrenbauer last spring but the decision was delayed as a result of the pandemic.

In selecting Laschet, 59, most CDU delegates made clear they do not favor a break with the Merkel era. In her nearly 16-year tenure as chancellor, Merkel, who announced in late 2018 that she wouldn’t seek another term, broadened support for her party well beyond its traditional conservative base.

Laschet, a Merkel confidant, made clear in recent months that he wanted to preserve that coalition, dismissing suggestions the party needs to attract more conservative voters, some of whom have drifted to the far-right Alternative for Germany.

“We will only win if we remain strong in the center of society,” Laschet said in his convention speech Saturday, stressing the importance of “listening” to voters. “We have to speak clearly without polarizing,” he added.

In his speech, Laschet took clear aim at Merz, a business-oriented conservative who many in the party worried represented a throwback to a bygone era.  

“We don’t need a CEO,” Laschet said in his pitch to delegates, adding that the CDU wasn’t a “one-man show.”

This article has been updated.

Source : Politico EU More