Published: Fri, December 07, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

New leader chosen to replace Germany's Angela Merkel

New leader chosen to replace Germany's Angela Merkel

In her farewell speech after 18 years at the head of Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union, Mrs Merkel made an emotional appeal to the party to stay in the political centre as 1,001 delegates prepared to voted in a secret ballot for their new leader. The politician is a supporter of the German Chancellor's policies and has been often referred to as Mrs Merkel's "protege" or even "Mini Merkel".

Friday's vote pits CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel ally, against Friedrich Merz, a former leader of the party's parliamentary group who stands for a more conservative approach and has been away from front-line politics for a decade.

The 56-year-old lawyer remains loyal to the small town of Püttlingen in the western German state where she was born, the fifth of six children, and where she still lives.

Merkel listed some of those moments and many more in a half-hour farewell speech as leader, telling delegates that 'our CDU today is different from the year 2000, and that is a good thing'. She said the party must not look to the past but the future.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer has said she wants to improve on Ms Merkel's legacy and has suggested she would encourage debate within her party on issues such as immigration to encourage new proposals that could become government policy.

Merkel, 64, had earlier mounted a staunch defence of her moderate course since becoming chancellor in 2005.

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"The Merkel era is palpably coming to an end", political journalist and AKK biographer Kristina Dunz said.

"Whether it's the rejection of multilateralism, the return to nationalism, the reduction of worldwide 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. Health Minister Jens Spahn is considered the outsider. More generous family leave, an exit from nuclear power and an end to military conscription are among her signature policies.

Merz, 63, who lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002 and is returning to politics after a decade in business, is backed by CDU members exhausted of Merkel's consensual politics.

National broadsheet Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Schaeuble's move signalled that the CDU's long-festering divisions, thinly veiled by unity behind Merkel, could well break out in the open after the conference.

AKK is believed to have Merkel's strong backing but much will depend on how deep and widespread the longing is for a more conservative profile. Whoever wins, will lead the party at the next federal election - due by October 2021.

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

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