Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Merkel's party chooses successor to longtime German leader

Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union party's Secretary General Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer waves on stage after she was elected as party's leader during the CDU congress End of an era: Merkel passes torch to new party leader
Pablo Mccormick | 07 December, 2018, 19:23

A former state premier in Saarland, where she led a three-way coalition, Kramp-Karrenbauer has a reputation for uniting support across the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a talent for striking alliances with other parties.

While AKK, 56, is viewed as a keeper of the flame and similar to Merkel with an even temper and middle-of-the-road policies, Merz, 63, has become the torchbearer for those seeking a more decisive break with the chancellor.

The choice was made by 999 voting delegates at a party congress in German city of Hamburg on Friday, the day Merkel was seen off with a nine-minute standing ovation after 18 years as the party chief. Friedrich Merz, the millionaire businessman, won 392 votes from delegates meeting in Hamburg.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been elected as the new leader of Merkel's centre-right party.

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Her resignation came as the CDU and its sister party CSU suffered two humiliating defeats in the key regional elections in Hesse and Bavaria, respectively one of the most important financial centre of the country and one of the areas most affected by immigration.

Health Minister Jens Spahn, another Merkel critic, is considered the outsider.

Most controversially, she allowed large numbers of asylum-seekers into Germany in 2015. More generous family leave, an exit from nuclear power and an end to military conscription were among her signature policies.

During her campaign to succeed Merkel as party leader, she repeatedly noted that she was able to blunt an onslaught by the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as it picked up seats in state after state.

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Pointing to the rise of populism worldwide and what she called a breakdown of shared Western values, Merkel said the order she had championed was at risk. "Merz could be tempted to see his revenge and lunge for power (as soon as next year)".

Merkel told a party congress in Hamburg that "our CDU today is different from the year 2000, and that is a good thing".

"Now it is time to open a new chapter", Merkel said. Daniel Kirch, political correspondent at Saarbrücker Zeitung said.

"Angela Merkel is one of our era's most globally respected leaders, a statesperson of formidable intellect, commitment, empathy, and principle", said Margaret Wang, president of the Harvard Alumni Association.

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Sometimes dubbed "mini Merkel", Kramp-Karrenbauer is admired by the CDU upper echelons for her appeal across the party.

Whoever wins will face towering challenges for the party, which is now drawing around 28 percent at the polls, far below the around 40 percent enjoyed during Merkel's heyday.

But on what lies ahead for the CDU, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer says: "I have no particular recipe".

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