Who will replace Angela Merkel?

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Yanik Dumont Baron (access the author's page)

It has been more than two years since Europe's most influential leader confirmed that she would step down in 2021. A very long "goodbye" during which the identity of her replacement changed a few times. This weekend, Angela Merkel's party – finally – named her a successor.

Now is the time to start a new chapter, Angela Merkel said … in October 2018. More than two years and a pandemic later, Germany is about to turn the page. Slowly.

This weekend, Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) appointed a new leader. This is Armin Laschet, the current president of Germany's most populous region, the 'lander' North Rhine-WestphaliaIn addition to this, you need to know more about it. (New window)In addition to this, you need to know more about it..

Mr Laschet did not automatically become German Chancellor this weekend, but he is now the head of the country's most popular party. In other words, he is in a good position for the national elections in September, which will decide the next chancellor.

The CDU Congress was virtual, but its impacts will be very real for Germany, led for more than 15 years by a centrist and pragmatic Chancellor, and for Europe, guided by a leader with instincts for cooperation and compromise.

Who is Armin Laschet?

Armin Laschet.

The new president of Angela Markel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Armin Laschet

Photo: Getty Images / Pool

The new boss of the CDU can be considered a career politician, even though he was a journalist for a few years after graduation.

French-speaking, he has often been sensitive to the plight of refugees, strongly defending Merkel's controversial decision to welcome a million migrants in 2015.

The 59-year-old has often been described as the choice of continuity. A break with Angela Merkel would be madness, he repeated several times recently.

This choice therefore confirms this desire for continuity but, for the CDU, it was also heartbreaking. Armin Laschet did not get 53% of the vote in the second round.

His rival Friedrich Menz proposed a more conservative avenue, a return to the avant-Merkel, a turn to the right in the hope of rallying voters who were sometimes disappointed with Angela Merkel's pragmatism and seduced by the far right.

The main role of Merkel's successor, explained Karl-Rudolf Korte, a political scientist at Duisburg-Essen University, will be to bring together the different voices of the party (…) and to preserve cooperation with the rest of Europe.

Precisely, under Merkel, Germany offered a certain stability to the European Union, sailing out of crisis zones, often in collaboration with the French partner. Under Laschet, the CDU should continue in this direction.

What if it wasn't Laschet?

Warning: there is no guarantee that Armin Laschet will be the one to really turn the page on the Merkel era.

In the campaign that is coming to an end, he has not aroused too much enthusiasm. No more than his two main adversaries.

Despite his election to the leadership of the CDU, the party could ask another politician to run for chancellor.

A few names are circulating, including those of Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, and the current head of Bavaria, Markus Söder.

The latter is affiliated with CSU, the sister party of the CDU by Merkel. Popular, he is considered to be the Chancellor's right-hand man in managing the coronavirus crisis.

The CDU has dominated German politics for decades. Party choices also have a lot of influence in Europe.

Yes, the Christian Democrats remain in the voting intentions, but this popularity seems mainly attributable to the management of the pandemic by Angela Merkel.

But without the name of this politician so familiar to the Germans on the ballots, will their preference change?

The end of the Merkel era is heralded, but in other words, the last chapter is not quite written.

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