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Merkel's Party Chooses Successor to Longtime German Leader

Merkel's Party Chooses Successor to Longtime German Leader

The favorites are CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel ally who is widely considered the chancellor's preferred successor and is closest to her centrist stance; and Friedrich Merz, a former leader of the party's parliamentary group who stands for a more conservative approach and is seeking a comeback after a decade away from front-line politics.

Accepting a lengthy standing ovation from delegates, many tearful and holding "Thanks, boss" placards aloft, a visibly moved Merkel said the party had won 4 national elections under her by holding fast to its principles.

A staunch Catholic, Kramp-Karrenbauer has spoken out in favour of a ban on doctors who carry out abortions being able to advertise their services, after a court case propelled the topic into the headlines, and is also openly sceptical about the "marriage for all" law campaigned for by her opponent, Jens Spahn, who is married to his male partner.

She reported members were full of "pride, frustration, concern and uncertainty".

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, often referred to as "AKK", has been an active member of the CDU since the 1990s but became most well-known for her time as Minister President of Saarland from 2011 to February of this year.

Merz will benefit from the fact that 296 of the delegates at the congress - nearly a third - will be from his home state, the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Friday's two-round vote came weeks after Merkel, 64, decided in October not to seek a re-election to the post, but expressed her readiness to stay on as Germany's chancellor for the remaining three years of her term.

Today's vote has been closely watched, as whoever leads the CDU is likely to become the next chancellor of Europe's biggest economy.

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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, the new chancellor-in-waiting, is expected to protect Mrs Merkel's legacy but has also revealed more right-wing instincts during a hard-fought contest over the past few weeks. In Friday's vote, he was backed by CDU members exhausted of Merkel's consensual politics, including party veteran Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Most controversially, she allowed large numbers of asylum-seekers into Germany in 2015.

In a farewell speech as leader, Merkel said Friday that "our CDU today is different from the year 2000, and that is a good thing".

Months before the national election where the CDU slumped to its worst result since 1949 winning just 32.9 per cent of the national vote, she managed to secure over 40 percent of the vote in Saarland, marking her out as a victor in a field of losers.

"In hard times we shouldn't forget our Christian and democratic stance", she said.

"Whether it's the rejection of multilateralism, the return to nationalism, the reduction of global cooperation to deal-making or threatened trade wars. hybrid warfare, destablisation of societies with fake news or the future of our European Union - we Christian Democrats must show in the face of all these challenges what we've got", she said.

"I wasn't born as chancellor or as party leader", she said. 'I have always wanted to do my government and party jobs with dignity, and one day to leave them with dignity'.

"Now it is time to open a new chapter", Merkel said.


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