Berlin— Germany’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has chosen the prominent conservative Friedrich Merz as party leader. The appointment follows the party’s historically low showing in the September election; becoming an opposition party for the first time in 16 years.
Armin Laschet, the CDU’s party leader, is stepping down following the election loss; which saw Social Democrat Olaf Scholz become chancellor in a Liberals and the Greens coalition government. Merz, a conservative, is a clear break from Angela Merkel’s position in the political center.
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In a party membership ballot, Merz polled 62.1% in his third run for the CDU’s top post; well ahead of his rivals Norbert Roettgen, a former environment minister, and Merkel’s former chief of staff Helge Braun.
Merz, at 66, has prior experience of being an opposition leader. He led the center-right party in parliament from 2000 to 2002, when Merkel replaced him.
He left parliament in 2009 to practice law and headed the supervisory board of BlackRock’s German branch and returned to the 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.”