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Germany’s CDU confirms Friedrich Merz as leader as party draws line under Merkel era

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Germany’s CDU confirms Friedrich Merz as leader as party draws line under Merkel era

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Germany’s conservative Christian Democrats have chosen Friedrich Merz, a critic of former Chancellor Angela Merkel, as their new leader in hopes of reviving the party devastated by last year’s general election defeat.

The 66-year-old from the traditional wing of the CDU was elected by a large majority among the 980 delegates who met by videoconference on Saturday. Some 95% voted in favor of the only candidate, already assured of the post after being supported by party members in December.

Having failed in two previous attempts to secure the party’s leadership in recent years, Merz said he was “deeply moved” by the party’s support.

After years of centrist politics under Merkel, Friedrich Merz favors a return to traditional conservatism for the CDU after the party recorded its lowest score in last September’s election.

The humiliation prompted the defeated chancellor candidate, Armin Laschet, to resign.

“We must be a strong opposition,” Merz promised, adding that the CDU is aiming for victory in several regional elections this year.

After 16 years in power in Germany, the CDU is entering a period of opposition for the next four years. The newly formed government of Olaf Scholz is made up of his social democrats supported by the greens and the liberal party.

The new Conservative leader accused Scholz of inaction, citing the debate over mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as well as Ukraine’s security crisis.

Without directly attacking the former chancellor, Merz did not hide her desire to break with the Merkel years.

Their rivalry dates back 20 years, when Angela Merkel, then CDU chairwoman, dropped Merz from the strategically important role of chairman of the party’s parliamentary group.

In 2009, he retired from political life to devote himself to the world of finance. As a lawyer at a major Düsseldorf law firm, he made his fortune and took on influential roles at major German companies, stepping down as a director at Blackrock last year.

Catholic and married, father of three children, Merz also owns two planes, one of which he pilots himself.

Germany’s CDU confirms Friedrich Merz as leader as party draws line under Merkel era

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