The party of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has chosen Armin Laschet as its new leader.
Laschet defeated Friedrich Merz, a conservative and one-time Merkel rival, at an online convention on Saturday of the Christian Democratic Union.
Laschet won 521 votes to Merz’s 466; a third candidate, prominent lawmaker Norbert Röttgen, was eliminated in a first round of voting.
Saturday’s vote is not the final word on who will run as the center-right candidate for chancellor in Germany’s 26 September election, but Laschet will either run for chancellor or will have a big say in who does.
Laschet, 59, is the governor of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia – traditionally a center-left stronghold – where he won election in 2017.
Saturday’s decision will end an 11-month leadership limbo in the CDU after Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had failed to impose her authority on the party, announced her resignation. A vote on her successor was delayed twice because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The CDU is part of the Union bloc along with the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, and the two parties will decide together on the center-right candidate. The Union has a healthy poll lead, helped by positive reviews of Merkel’s handling of the pandemic.
Merkel, who has been chancellor since 2005, announced in 2018 that she would not seek a fifth term. She also stepped down from the CDU leadership.