(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s Christian Democrats have chosen Friedrich Merz, a former BlackRock Inc. executive, as chairman to spearhead the party’s revival after a stinging election defeat in September. 

Merz was the only candidate standing at the virtual party conference. He was elected with 95% in his favor, or 967 out of 983 votes, with no ballots cast against him, according to a statement from the party of former Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“We experienced three years that were not easy and had to accept a heavy defeat,” Merz said on Saturday. “We have not lost our self-confidence -- nor our political responsibility for our country.”

Merz said the CDU will continue to be powerful opposition to the ruling coalition of the Social Democrats, Greens and liberal FDP, and will demand clear positions on major issues. 

The vote was taken to choose a replacement for Armin Laschet, who agreed to step down as chairman after a lackluster campaign that led the party to its worst national election result since World War II. 

Merz, 66, has portrayed himself as a challenger to the CDU establishment that Merkel dominated during her four terms as chancellor.

He lost a party power struggle with Merkel in the early 2000s before quitting politics for business. He was chairman of wealth manager BlackRock’s German unit before his political return in 2020.  

The CDU and its Bavarian CSU sister-party won a combined 24.1% of the vote and came second behind the Social Democrats, who scored 25.7% in September. 

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