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German centre right elects Merkel critic as leader

Germany's centre right opposition Christian Democrats on Saturday elected Friedrich Merz, a critic of former Chancellor Angela Merkel, as their new leader by a huge majority.

Friedrich Merz Germany
Christian Democratic Party (CDU) newly elected Chairman Friedrich Merz. Photo: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE / POOL / AFP

Merkel left office in 2021 after 16 years in power and was succeeded by Social Democrat Olaf Scholz at the helm of a three-way coalition with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

Electoral defeat left the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) having to regroup and members gave their strong backing to Merz, a 66-year-old on the traditional right of the party, after twice rejecting him in recent years.

Merz, the only candidate standing, received the backing of 95 percent of 980 delegates at a virtual party congress and declared himself “deeply moved” to see the extent of their support.

The CDU are licking their wounds after a defeat to Scholz’s Social Democrats in September elections which saw Merz’s predecessor Armin Laschet lead the party to the worst showing in its history.

“We must be a strong opposition,” said Merz as he targeted success in a slew of elections to regional assemblies slated this year.

He also took aim at Scholz, claiming the new chancellor should take a harder line both on Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine and on making vaccination against Covid-19 obligatory.

The new CDU helmsman is a long-time opponent of Merkel, their rivalry dating back 20 years to when the former chancellor removed him from the strategically key post of chairman of the parliamentary party.

In 2009, Merz stepped away from politics to move into finance, becoming a multimillionaire, also taking on several influential roles within large companies – he was notably an investment manager with Blackrock. He also worked as a commercial lawyer.

The married Catholic father of three, who first entered parliament in 1994, owns two aeroplanes and pilots one himself.

Member comments

  1. A good example of just how wrong-headed and out of touch with much of the changing population of Germany the CDU is these days. Overwhelmingly electing the wrong person at the wrong time. Great for the rest of us of course!
    May many years of oppostion await you….

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TRAVEL NEWS

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

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