Merkel’s party chooses successor to longtime German leader

Merkel’s party chooses successor to longtime German leader

Angela Merkel, who has been the CDU's head since 2000 and German chancellor since 2005, announced in November that she would not run for the party's leadership or seek a fifth term as chancellor in 2021, setting a deadline for her exit from German politics.

While Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, is viewed as 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 from the chancellor.

She told Reuters news agency last week Europe and the United States should consider blockading Russian ships over the Ukraine crisis.

In her closing speech Friday, Chancellor Merkel singled out Kramp-Karrenbauer's success in the Saarland elections in 2017 which largely bucked the trend of heavy losses for the party in various other regional elections, largely due to the dramatic rise in support for the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD).

She joined the CDU in 1981 as a 19-year-old student and, after completing a masters in political science, worked in state-level politics.

But it was not until previous year, when she managed to turn the tide against the Social Democrats in Saarland that she became a household name.

Ms Merkel is stepping down as leader after 18 years but has pledged to remain as chancellor - something that would be easier if Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, seen as an ally, succeeds her in the CDU role.

She joined the CDU in 1981, first serving in her local youth division of the party.

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Whoever wins will face towering challenges for the party, which is now drawing roughly 30% at the polls, far below the around 40% it enjoyed during Merkel's heyday.

During his speech Friday before the vote, Spahn also noted the ageing problem in the CDU claiming that there were more party members over the age of 75 than under 40, and said he would work to revitalise the party's image among younger people. But she has warned that endlessly rehashing debates about Merkel's decision to allow in large numbers of migrants in 2015 is a turn-off for voters.

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.

'We are in demanding times today, no doubt about that, ' she 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.

"I wasn't born as chancellor or as party leader", she added. "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".

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.

"It has been a great pleasure for me, it has been an honour", she said to a standing ovation lasting almost 10 minutes, and fighting to hold back tears.

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