yeah, merit counts for nothing, but relationship does count for something. also character trait.
derthert being a cheap mofo will not give you things as easily as some of the generous kings. so choose your kingdom wisely. but also, you can get great relationship with lords, especially those with poor relation with derthert, and they'll vote for you. in this vote here you got 1 extra vote, but if you had 50+ relation with many lords and if they have influence to spare, you'll get it