BERLIN — Germany’s governing Christian Democrats (CDU) on Saturday chose Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, as their new leader, signaling that the center-right party intends to maintain Angela Merkel’s moderate course after her expected departure in the fall.
Laschet defeated corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz by 521 votes to 466 in a run-off vote at an online-only party conference, held in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. A third candidate, Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, was eliminated in a first round of voting.
The victory puts Laschet, a francophone former MEP, in a strong position to become the conservative bloc’s candidate for chancellor. A decision on that issue is expected by March. Polls suggest that most conservative voters want Bavarian premier Markus Söder to become Germany’s next chancellor, however.