Sunday, 17 February, 2019

Kramp-Karrenbauer wins first round vote to replace Merkel as CDU leader

Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer is the new leader of the Christian Democratic Union Image Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer is the new leader of the CDU
Kenny Thornton | 07 December, 2018, 22:56

She secured the majority she needed to defeat Friedrich Merz, 61, the figurehead of the Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) economically liberal wing, by only 35 votes out of 999. Major German parties have tended to determine their leaders without a contest, and this is the first open competition for the CDU leadership since 1971. Kramp-Karrenbauer is 56 and Merz 63, only a year younger than the chancellor.

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 seen as being in a distant third place.

Kramp-Karrenbauer - often known as "AKK" - will be the favourite to run for chancellor in the next election, though that isn't automatic.

Angela Merkel's long exit from politics begins Friday when her party gathers in Hamburg to decide whether to appoint her chosen successor as its new leader or break with the legacy of her 13 years in charge of Germany.

Both have prominent backers, though many CDU grandees - including the chancellor - have held off publicly endorsing a candidate.

This arrangement, it is claimed, would give the country a chance to get used to her successor and for the new party leader to get prepared before the next Federal elections in 2021.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has celebrated her 18 years at the helm of Germany's main center-right party in her final speech as leader, urging members to show unity as it opens a new chapter.

Delegates hold a cardboards reading: "Thank you chief for 18 years as CDU chairwoman" during Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party congress in Hamburg, Germany, December 7, 2018.

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At present, the center-right bloc is polling around or below 30 percent.

She now inherits the task of improving the CDU's political fortunes and trying to win back voters from rivals to the right and left, while working with Merkel as chancellor until Germany's next election.

Merkel, however, recalled that the CDU was in a deep crisis when she took over in 2000, mired in a party financing scandal surrounding ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

"We are facing a turning point and need a breakthrough for the next years".

"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, destabilization 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.

One of the most recent examples of Merz wanting a change of course for the CDU has been his outspoken criticism of the United Nations migration pact, which was revealed to have been largely drafted by the Merkel government starting in 2016.

"I am grateful for the time that is behind me, and I am glad for being able to continue working as chancellor", she said. 'I have always wanted to do my government and party jobs with dignity, and one day to leave them with dignity'.

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.

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