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The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
Mr Merz's task is to rebuild trust in the CDU"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 19:08 GMT
CDU appoints new parliamentary leader
Friedrich Merz
Friedrich Merz (right): Elected unopposed
Conservative members of Germany's parliament have chosen a new group leader.

Friedrich Merz was elected unopposed to head the CDU/CSU group after the CDU funding scandal forced the resignation of Wolfgang Schauble.

CDU MPs have also elected six deputies to head the opposition to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government.

Wolfgang Schauble
Wolfgang Schauble: Forced to resign
Mr Schauble resigned as opposition leader and CDU party chairman over his handling of the scandal.

He said he was leaving the posts to allow the party to have a "new start" and restore the Christian Democrats' credibility with voters.

Mr Merz's appointment is intended to begin a process of renewal aimed at ending weeks of crisis in the CDU.

MPs from the CDU - and from its more right-wing sister party, the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU) - had already decided Mr Merz would be named as joint parliamentary group leader.

He emerged unopposed from negotiations between the two parties, and the BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin says the vote by secret ballot was a formality.

Future leaders

A high-flier, Mr Merz has been tipped as a future CDU leader and has been tasked with helping to clear up the ongoing scandal, which centres on secret funding under former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

The 44-year-old finance spokesman and former MEP has called Mr Kohl's conduct "miserable" - blaming him for causing "the deepest crisis in our party's 50-year history" - and has been endorsed by Mr Schauble, a long-time Kohl protégé.

Ms Merkel and Mr Ruehe
Ms Merkel and Mr Ruehe are expected to run for party leader
Despite defeat in Sunday's state elections in Schleswig-Holstein, the combative former Defence Minister Volker Ruehe - nicknamed Rambo - was appointed as one of Mr Merz's deputies.

He was made spokesman on Defence and Foreign Affairs - but the appointment also gives him a base from which to launch a challenge to be the next CDU leader.

The present CDU secretary-general, Angela Merkel, is also expected to run for the chairmanship when it is decided at the party conference in April.
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See also:

28 Feb 00 |  Europe
CDU fails election test
28 Feb 00 |  Europe
Press hails 'clear' SPD victory
04 Jan 00 |  Europe
Kohl's mark on history
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