Merkel's Bavarian allies elect new head, ushering in new era

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies have elected a new leader, a change that offers Germany's center-right a chance to put behind it persistent bickering over recent years.

The 52-year-old Markus Soeder was elected unopposed in Munich on Saturday to lead the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

Soeder replaces the 69-year-old Horst Seehofer, the CSU leader for the past decade and the most prominent domestic opponent of Merkel's welcoming approach to refugees in 2015. Soeder already succeeded Seehofer, now Germany's interior minister, as Bavarian governor last year.

Last month, Merkel handed over the CDU leadership to ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. She and Soeder appear keen to improve relations between the two parties that have frayed at times in recent years.