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17 Dec 2021, 14:17
Benjamin Wehrmann

Popular conservative Merz wins bid for German CDU leadership

Friedrich Merz in 2020. Source: Micheal Lucan
Friedrich Merz in 2020. Source: Micheal Lucan

Clean Energy Wire

Conservative hardliner Friedrich Merz looks set to become the leader of German opposition party the Christian Democrats (CDU). In an internal vote by CDU members, Merz received over 62 percent of the vote, decisively beating his competitors Norbert Röttgen and Helge Braun. “The members have decided,” the CDU announced, adding that Merz is now the “designated” party leader before it will be made official at a party convention on 22 January next year. It was Merz’s third attempt to become leader of former chancellor Angela Merkel’s party after two similar contests held in late 2018 and in early 2021, with the difference this time that the party’s members were able to vote directly rather than through delegates. This appeared to have given the  darling of many conservative voters an edge, as previous delegate votes tended to favour more centrist candidates. Almost two thirds of the CDU’s some 400,000 members had voted in the leadership election, meaning Merz was given a strong mandate to consolidate the party.

Merz, an internal party rival from Merkel's early days as leader, had largely disappeared from the public sphere after 2009 to work as chairman of the supervisory board of the German branch of investment company BlackRock. He returned to the stage in 2018 for the party leadership contest. Climate and energy policy have never been topics Merz has held close to heart, but he recently confirmed his commitment to the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, laid out in the Paris Agreement. The German conservative CDU/CSU alliance is going through a phase of introspection and restructuring after the party incurred its worst-ever election result in September under chancellor candidate Armin Laschet. After 16 years in power with CDU chancellor Merkel, the conservatives had to give way to a tripartite coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP).

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