Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is electing its new leader on Saturday, in a crucial vote that will shape the future of the party.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who led the center-right party from 2000 to 2018, has not openly endorsed any of the three candidates vying for the top position.
Friedrich Merz, a longtime rival of Merkel’s, is currently the frontrunner in the leadership race, backed by the party’s more conservative wing and youth organization.
Armin Laschet, an experienced liberal-conservative politician and the premier of the country’s most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, is also seen as a frontrunner to take the party’s helm. He is widely seen as Merkel’s unspoken favorite for the conservative top seat.
Norbert Roettgen, a CDU lawmaker and foreign policy expert, has gained more popularity in recent weeks with his emphasis on climate change, modernizing the party structure and increasing the number of women and youth in key positions.
During the CDU’s digital party congress, 1,001 delegates from the party’s regional and local branches will cast their votes online to choose the party’s new leader.
As a precaution against manipulation by hackers or intelligence organizations, delegates will also send their ballots via postal service.
The final and official results of the election will be announced by Jan. 22.