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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Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

Germany will reinstate its so-called debt brake in 2023 after suspending it for three years to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, sources in the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The government will borrow 17.2 billion euros ($18.1 million) next year, adhering to the rule enshrined in the constitution that normally limits

Germany’s public deficit to 0.35 percent of overall annual economic output, despite new spending as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the sources said.

The new borrowing set out in a draft budget to be presented to the cabinet on Friday is almost 10 billion euros higher than a previous figure for 2023 announced in April.

However, “despite a considerable increase in costs, the debt brake will be respected,” one of the sources said.

Although Germany is traditionally a frugal nation, the government broke its own debt rules at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed vast financial aid to steer the economy through the crisis.

READ ALSO: Debt-averse Germany to take on new borrowings to soften pandemic blow

The government has this year unveiled a multi-billion-euro support package to help companies in Europe’s biggest economy weather the fallout from the Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia.

Berlin has also spent billions to diversify its energy supply to reduce its dependence on Russia, as well as investing heavily in plans to tackle climate change and push digital technology.

But despite the additional spending, Finance Minister Christian Lindner has maintained the aim to reinstate the debt brake in 2023.