Merz takes over as center-right opposition leader in Germany | world news

BERLIN (AP) — Friedrich Merz officially took office on Monday as leader of Germany’s main opposition party, ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union, after his election was approved by postal ballot.

The 66-year-old conservative, a former rival and longtime critic of Merkel, emerged victorious in a ballot of party members in December, beating two other contenders. It was endorsed by a party convention just over a week ago – a result which, for legal reasons, required formal confirmation in a postal ballot. In that poll, the party said on Monday, Merz won 837 of 895 votes submitted.

Merz became party leader in his third attempt after his predecessor Armin Laschet led the CDU-dominated Union bloc to its worst national election result in September. New Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose centre-left Social Democrats narrowly won, formed a three-party coalition that sent the conservative bloc into opposition.

Merz is already preparing to consolidate his power. The leader of the Union parliamentary group, Ralph Brinkhaus, agreed last week to give up the post – the most high-profile post the party has in opposition. Lawmakers are also expected to elect Merz to the post on Feb. 15.

Merz said the party’s new leadership will “give all possible support” to the party’s candidates in this year’s four regional elections. votes between the end of March and mid-May. The party is the junior government partner in Lower Saxony, which is due to vote in October.

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