Germany: Merkel’s CDU party chooses conservative Merz as leader

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Members of Germany’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have chosen prominent conservative Friedrich Merz as party leader.

The appointment comes after the party had a historically low showing in the September election, becoming an opposition party for the first time in 16 years.

Armin Laschet, the CDU’s leader since January, is stepping down following the election which saw Social Democrat Olaf Scholz become chancellor in a coalition government with the Liberals and the Greens.

The conservative Merz is a clear break from former Chancellor Angela Merkel who positioned the party in the political centre.

In his third run for the CDU’s top post, Merz received 62.1% in a party membership ballot, far ahead of his rivals Norbert Roettgen, a former environment minister, and Helge Braun, Merkel’s former chief of staff.

The 66-year-old Merz has prior experience of being an opposition leader.

He led the centre-right party in parliament from 2000 to 2002, when Merkel pushed him out of that job.

He left parliament in 2009, later practicing as a lawyer and heading the supervisory board of investment manager BlackRock’s German branch. He returned to parliament in the September election.

Merz pledged on Friday to “stand for the party in its full breadth” and said he would work to ensure that “different political opinions and directions” have a place.

“We won’t engage in fundamental opposition,” he said. “We will be a constructive opposition.”

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