Ballot count confirms Laschet as leader of Merkel’s party

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party said Friday that Armin Laschet, the governor of Germany’s most populous state, has been confirmed as its new leader.

The 59-year-old centrist came first in an online vote by party delegates Saturday, ahead of conservative rival Friedrich Merz. Under German law the election had to be officially endorsed with a postal ballot.

Laschet received 796 out of 980 valid ballots, amounting to over 83% of the vote. He is the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, which has a population of about 17 million.

The party’s new chairman will be a strong contender to lead the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, into this year’s national election, in which Merkel will not run again.

A decision on who to put forward for chancellor ahead of the Sept. 26 election will have to be made together with the CDU’s Bavaria-only sister party. That will likely happen after regional election in several German states take place in March.