BERLIN — Germany took its first step into a new era on Saturday, choosing the next leader of Chancellor’s Angela Merkel’s conservative party ahead of fall elections in which she will not be on the ballot.
In normal times, Armin Laschet, the longstanding Merkel ally who was elected to lead the party, the Christian Democratic Union, would almost certainly succeed her as chancellor of Europe’s most powerful country.
But these are not normal times.
Ms. Merkel has been the dominant political force and a face of stability in the country for more than 15 years. She has served as leader of Germany and a leader of Europe, steering the continent through successive crises. She also helped Germany rise to be a dominant force politically and economically in Europe for the first time since World War II.
At a time of exceptional fragility in United States democracy, violently on display in the riot at the Capitol last week, many inside and outside Germany are awaiting with some trepidation Ms. Merkel’s departure after the election, which will be held in September.
“Merkelism has been the antidote to Trumpism,” said Andrea Römmele, the dean of the Berlin-based Hertie School of Governance. “With both Merkel and Trump leaving office this year, the big question is: Whose legacy will win?”
Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.