Berlin (Germany): Armin Laschet has been selected as the new chairman of the ruling conservative Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), and stands most strongly as the successor of Angela Merkel as Chancellor when she steps down after federal elections this year.
The 59-year-old Laschet was elected in a runoff vote during a digital party conference on Saturday, beating arch-conservative Friedrich Merz by 521 votes to 466, to resolve a three-way contest that had also featured outside Norbert Rottgen, DW reported.
Laschet has been the premier of Germany’s most populous state North-Rhine-Westphalia since 2017.
In his victory speech, Laschet vowed to do everything so that the party would do well in upcoming regional elections and to keep hold of the position of Chancellor.
“Further, more important elections are still ahead of us,” he said.
He also thanked and praised the other candidates for a “fair” competition.
Laschet is widely expected to carry on Merkel’s policy of unwavering centrism and strive for unity in the party and government, reported Sputnik.
Meanwhile, Merz also congratulated Laschet and wished him “success” as chairman of the party. “It’s an important year that we have ahead of us, it will be a tremendously arduous time in the next weeks and months for all of us,” Merz said.
According to DW News Agency, Laschet has been one of the CDU’s five deputy federal chairmen since 2012. A Catholic from the Rhine region, he has always been a reliable partner to the respective party chairmen. Merkel, reportedly, had confidence in his reliability as her deputy when she was party head until 2018, as her successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
When Merkel faced strong opposition from parts of her party in the face of the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Germany since 2015, Laschet remained a faithful ally.
Laschet was the only one of the three contenders who had already won an election as a lead candidate and brought government experience, DW News Agency reported.
The candidate is due to be decided only after regional elections in two German states, a good two months from now.
That decision will be made in coordination with Markus Soder, the head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), CDU’s sister party.