Armin Laschet, the centrist governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, was elected on Saturday as the new leader of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), defeating the more conservative Friedrich Merz by a 521-466 margin.
Why it matters: Laschet is now the most likely successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel as the standard bearer of the German center-right heading into September’s elections. With Merkel preparing to step down after 16 years in power, Laschet is seen as a continuity candidate.
- The union of the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), will select its nominee to become chancellor in the spring, with Laschet now positioned as the front-runner.
- After the contest, Laschet said that he wanted to ensure that the next German chancellor would be from the CDU/CSU union.
The big picture: Laschet will replace Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had been Merkel’s hand-picked successor. She resigned resigned as part chair in 2018 with the CDU losing votes to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and to the Greens on the left.
- The party has regained strength due to perceptions that Merkel has handled the COVID-19 crisis successfully.
- The CDU/CSU union leads the most recent opinion poll with 37%, followed by the Greens (20%), the center-left Social Democratic Party (15%) and the AfD (10%).
The bottom line: Laschet, a Merkel loyalist, has promised to keep the party in the “middle of society,” signaling a preservation of Merkel’s policies.