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Germany: Hendrik Wüst to take helm of most populous state

North Rhine-Westphalia's parliament has chosen Christian Democrat Hendrik Wüst as the state's new premier. He will manage a region with a population larger than that of the Netherlands.

Hendrik Wüst has been serving as NRW's transport minister

Hendrik Wüst has been serving as NRW's transport minister

The parliament in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Wednesday elected politician Hendrik Wüst, a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), as the region's new premier.

The 46-year-old takes over from his party colleague Armin Laschet, who is standing down from the role after failing in his bid to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor. The CDU and its Bavarian sister party the CSU suffered in recent federal elections with Laschet as chancellor candidate. 

What did Wüst say about being elected state premier? 

Wüst was elected with 103 votes in favor and 90 against in the assembly of 197 seats.

"I am touched by this election, and I am grateful for the trust," Wüst said in his inaugural speech.

NRW, he said, has major tasks ahead, including dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and rebuilding after devastating flooding in July.

A lawyer by trade, Wüst is perceived as being a member of the CDU's more-conservative wing.  

What does the job entail?

Wüst, who had already been elected as the CDU's new party leader in NRW, hasn't got long to make his mark. He faces state elections in May next year.

The office of state premier involves executive power over state ministries for competencies such as labor, health, finance, transport, the interior, economy, education, justice, communities, and culture.

As such, state premiers are involved in the hiring and firing of cabinet members. They also perform some devolved ceremonial duties that might otherwise be carried out by a head of state.

Other areas like foreign policy, defense, and currency remain the exclusive responsibility of the federal government.

With a population of almost 18 million, NRW has more inhabitants than the average EU state.

rc/wd (AFP, dpa)