Merkel’s party to pick new head at online convention Jan 16

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Party said Monday it will hold an online convention Jan. 16 to pick its new head, who will be a strong contender to lead the party into next year’s election to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor.

The center-right party has been in leadership limbo since current chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who succeeded Merkel in 2018, announced in February that she would relinquish her party role.

Two planned conventions to choose a successor were canceled because of the pandemic. In the end, senior party officials agreed to hold a virtual event at which around 1,000 delegates will choose a new leadership. The electronic vote, while symbolically significant, will be backed by a legally binding postal ballot.

The three main candidates to lead the party are Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state; Friedrich Merz, a former leader of the party’s parliamentary group who was sidelined by Merkel; and Norbert Roettgen, who chairs parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

Other party members can still put forward their candidacies before the vote.

The next party leader would be in a strong position to seek to run for chancellor in September on the common ticket put forward by the Christian Democrats and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.

Merkel has said she won’t seek a fifth term as chancellor. The choice of her successor has triggered a battle between moderates from Merkel’s camp, who have tended to back Laschet or Roettgen, and the party’s right wing, which favors Merz.

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