Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, has been elected chairman of Germany’s governing Christian Democrats (CDU).
Laschet (59) defeated Friedrich Merz by 521 votes to 466 in a run-off vote at an online-only party conference on Saturday. A third candidate, Norbert Röttgen was eliminated in a first round of voting.
Laschet’s victory puts him in a strong position to become the conservative party’s candidate for chancellor at the forthcoming general elections. However, opinion polls suggest that conservative voters would prefer Markus Soder, Bavaria’s premier and member of the CDU’s sister party, CSU.
A decision on who will run as their joint candidate is expected in March.
“Armin Laschet stands for our issues: Integration, Migration, Digitalisation, Strong Europe, Ecology and Economy, More Women in Politics,” Dr Sylvie Nantcha, chairman of The African Network of Germany, said in her reaction to the election.
Nantcha, a CDU member, described Laschet, whom she quoted to have called for a more tolerant society, as dependable politician who would stand by his words. “Armin Laschet is a man of words and deeds.”
Clément Klutse, another African member of the CDU, has also expressed his delight at Laschet’s election, recalling the premier’s support for his candidacy for the Hamburg parliament four years ago.
Laschet, who has been governing the state of North Rhine-Westphalia since June 2017, replaces Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel’s hand-picked successor, who resigned a year ago.
Germany, which is presently governed by a grand coalition of the CDU/CSU and SPD, will go to the polls in September to elect a new federal parliament, Bundestag. In his post-election speech, Laschet emphasises that he would like the CDU to remain a centrist party “where everyone sticks together and everyone has their place. That is what we are working on now”.