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Armin Laschet elected new leader of Germany's CDU party

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By Euronews
The new elected Christian Democratic Union, CDU, party chairman Armin Laschet
The new elected Christian Democratic Union, CDU, party chairman Armin Laschet   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Armin Laschet has been chosen as the new leader of Germany’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union party.

The decision as to who would become the leader of the CDU - current Chancellor Angela Merkel's party - comes months before an election to see who will replace her premier of Germany.

Laschet is seen as a pragmatic politician and the most likely to continue down the same political-centre path with the CDU as Merkel.

He has been the governor of the country’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, since 2017.

The 59-year-old defeated Friedrich Merz, a conservative and one-time Merkel rival, at an online convention of the Christian Democratic Union, winning 521 votes to Merz’s 466. Is Outsider Norbert Röttgen also stood in the three-way contest.

Saturday’s vote isn’t the final word on who will run as the centre-right candidate for chancellor in Germany’s September 26 election, but Laschet will either run for chancellor himself or have a big say in who does.

Merkel, who has been chancellor since 2005, announced in late 2018 that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term, as well as stepping down from the CDU leadership.

What do we know about the minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia?

Out of the three final candidates pursuing the job, Armin Laschet was considered to have an outlook most similar to Merkel's party leadership — a liberal social approach paired with fiscal virtue.

In 2017, he defeated the Social Democrats in their former stronghold of North Rhine-Westphalia, in western Germany and one of the country's biggest regions. He became premier and has governed as part of a coalition with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Laschet used this government experience in Germany's most populous state to campaign for the top CDU job.

"It is good to have party leaders who also have government responsibility. That has proven itself," he told Der Spiegel.

The 59-year-old says he wants to bring Germany up-to-date for the 2020s and remedy "the deficiencies" the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed.

How did we get here and what happens now?

The decision to appoint Laschet ends an 11-month leadership limbo in Germany's strongest party after outgoing leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had failed to impose her authority on the party, announced her resignation.

A vote on her successor was delayed twice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Upon winning the vote, Laschet pointed to the value of continuity and moderation.

“We must speak clearly but not polarize,” he told delegates. “We must be able to integrate, hold society together."

He said that “we will only win if we remain strong in the middle of society.”

Laschet said that “there are many people who find Angela Merkel good and only after that the CDU. He added that ”we need this trust now as a party" and that “we must work for this trust.”

Saturday's result will now be officially endorsed in a postal ballot — which is expected to be a formality but is required by German law.