Merkel’s party chooses successor to longtime German leader
08 December, 2018, 04:15
Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) newly elected leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (L) is congratulated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) during the CDU congress on December 7, 2018 at a fair hall in Hamburg, northern Germany.
Angela Merkel loyalist Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been elected as the new leader of the German chancellor's party.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a Merkel ally, said: "I am convinced that with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, we have the best chance of the CDU winning an election", adding she would be the most unsafe candidate to face the centre-left Social Democrats and the ecologist Greens.
Kramp-Karrenbauer narrowly defeated Friedrich Merz, a one-time Merkel rival, at a congress of the Christian Democratic Union in Hamburg overnight.
In her farewell speech as party leader, Mrs Merkel praised AKK's 2017 electoral success in Saarland, in a clear hint of the chancellor's personal preference in the leadership race.
With a warning against taking on nationalists on their own turf, Merkel left her party with an imprint of her legacy: the Lutheran pastor's daughter who wasn't predestined for a political career, but won four elections while resisting extremist rhetoric and at times the public derision of her opponents.
A third contender, Health Minister Jens Spahn, 38, an outspoken critic of Merkel's 2015 decision to welcome more than one million asylum seekers to Germany, is running a distant third.
Now the head of Germany's largest party, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, could become the next German chancellor. Whoever wins will be favorite to run for chancellor in the next election, though that isn't automatic. She gave up that job in February to become the CDU general secretary, in charge of day-to-day strategy.
Merkel, a Lutheran woman who grew up in the former Communist East where she moved when she was an infant, has always been something of an outsider in the male-dominated, Catholic party.
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The contest's outcome is expected to be crucial in deciding whether Merkel, Europe's most influential leader, can realise her stated goal of completing her fourth term in 2021 and then leaving politics. She also celebrated Germany's balancing its budget in recent years and its response to the eurozone debt crisis. In the 2013 election, they won 41.5 per cent of the vote and only just fell short of an outright parliamentary majority.
All the same, Merkel, a physicist, was fighting back tears when she gave a final speech as party leader, drawing a almost 10 minute standing ovation.
"We are in demanding times today, no doubt about that", she said. "But. we faced an hour of destiny for the Christian Democratic Union 18 years ago".
'I wasn't born as chancellor or as party leader, ' she said.
Outlining the multiple challenges facing Germany, from rapidly changing technology to climate change and a global shift away from multilateralism to defending national interests, she said: "In times like these, we will defend our liberal views, our way of life, both at home and overseas".
After a smattering of applause throughout the course of her final speech as CDU chief, Merkel was bid farewell with a rousing standing ovation that lasted about 10 minutes and included a brief encore.
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