Armin Laschet has been chosen as the new leader of Germany’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union party.
The decision as to who would take up the mantle of leadership of the CDU – the party of current chancellor Angela Merkel’s – comes months before an election to see who will be the country’s new chancellor.
Seen as a pragmatic politician, Laschet has been the governor of Germany’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.
Saturday’s vote isn’t the final word on who will run as the center-right candidate for chancellor in Germany’s September 26 election, but Laschet will either run for chancellor or will 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. She also stepped down from the CDU leadership.
The decision 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.