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Angela Merkel's Center-right Party Chooses New Leader Ahead of German Election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wears a face mask during a press conference on the current situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, following a meeting with the German government's so-called Corona-Cabinet, on November 2, 2020 in Berlin. (Image: AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wears a face mask during a press conference on the current situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, following a meeting with the German government's so-called Corona-Cabinet, on November 2, 2020 in Berlin. (Image: AFP)

Merkel, now 66, has steered Germany, and Europe, through a series of crises since she took office in 2005. But she said over two years ago that she won't seek a fifth term as chancellor..

Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right party is choosing a new leader this weekend, a decision that will help shape German voters' choice of her successor at the helm of the European Union's biggest economy after her 16-year tenure. Merkel, now 66, has steered Germany, and Europe, through a series of crises since she took office in 2005. But she said over two years ago that she won't seek a fifth term as chancellor.

Now her Christian Democratic Union party is seeking its second new leader since she quit that role in 2018. That person will either run for chancellor in Germany's Sept. 26 election or have a big say in who does run. Current leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced her resignation last February after failing to impose her authority on the party. A decision on her successor was delayed repeatedly by the coronavirus pandemic. Eventually, the CDU decided to hold an online convention this weekend.

Delegates from Germany's strongest party can choose Saturday between three main candidates who differ markedly, at least in style. There's no clear favorite. Friedrich Merz, 65, would mark a break from the Merkel era. The party has dominated the center ground, ending military conscription, enabling if not embracing same-sex marriage, and allowing in large numbers of migrants, among other things. He has a more traditionally conservative and pro-business image, and recently wrote in Der Spiegel magazine that the CDU must, whether it wants to or not, step out from the shadow of Angela Merkel.

Merz has said he wants to give a political home to disillusioned conservatives, but won't move one millimeter toward the far-right Alternative for Germany party. This is Merz's second bid for the party leadership after he lost narrowly last time to Kramp-Karrenbauer, considered Merkel's preferred candidate. He led the center-right group in parliament from 2000 to 2002, when Merkel pushed him out of that job, and left parliament in 2009 later practicing as a lawyer and heading the supervisory board of investment manager BlackRock's German branch.

Merz has sought to portray his decade out of politics as a strength but lacks government experience. Armin Laschet, the governor of Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, offers that.


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