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Merkel Minus Angela

Armin Laschet's surprise victory in the CDU leadership contest makes him the front-runner to become Germany's next chancellor, but it doesn't guarantee him the job. Laschet will need to defeat Markus Söder, the ambitious and politically flexible leader of the CDU's Bavarian sister party.

HAMBURG – The election of a European party leader – one of roughly 200 in the European Union – is normally not big news. But it is when the party is the strongest political force in the EU’s largest and richest country.

Over the weekend, Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) anointed Armin Laschet, the unassuming, friendly-faced prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, as its chairman. Laschet is not exactly a star on the world stage. But remember the name. Statistically, a Christian Democrat is the odds-on favorite for the chancellor’s job.

Five of Germany’s eight postwar chancellors have hailed from the CDU – from Konrad Adenauer to the current incumbent, Angela Merkel. And Merkel’s party currently leads in national polls by a wide margin, making it a safe bet that Merkel’s successor will again hail from the conservative camp after the general election in September.