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Germany : Armin Laschet elected as CDU leader

 BERlIN:Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) on Saturday elected Armin Laschet as its party chairman after an online vote, which is widely seen as a crucial step paving the way for the era after Angela Merkel retires from her post.


Laschet, 59, is the governor of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia.


In a run-off, Laschet garnered 521 votes beating the pro-business conservative Friedrich Merz, who got 466 votes.


A third candidate, foreign policy expert Norbert Roettgen, was knocked out in the first round of the voting.


To make the online election legitimate, a postal vote would follow the digital vote, and the formal recognition will be on Jan. 22, according to a schedule given by the CDU.


 Laschet was considered by local media a close ally and a continuity candidate of Merkel, pursuing a centrist course in the party.


When Merkel faced strong opposition and criticism from parts of her party during the refugee crisis in 2015, Laschet remained supportive of her policies.


Laschet said that the CDU will only win if the party remains strong "in the middle of the society," insisting on social cohesion and the social market economy.


"We want to remain a strong people's party of the middle, in which everyone stands together... We are working on that now," Laschet said in his victory address.


In terms of foreign policy, Laschet is a strong supporter of European integration due to his working experience as a member of the European Parliament and was born in the German-Dutch-Belgian border region, according to analysts.

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