Germany's Christian Democrats Elect New Leader After Merkel Steps Down

Germany's Christian Democrats Elect New Leader After Merkel Steps Down

German Chancellor and leader of the German Christian Democrats Angela Merkel waves after her last speech as party leader on Friday in Hamburg, Germany. She received 517 out of 999 votes from the CDU delegates, while her closest rival, Friedrich Merz, got 482.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, who is considered a protege of Mrs Merkel, was the candidate favoured by senior figures in the party and indicates a continuation of the current leader's centrist stance.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hand off leadership of her party on Friday after almost two decades at the helm, with the race wide open between a loyal deputy and a longtime rival.

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

Once the applause had died down, the party immediately began preparations tp elect a successor who could help shape Germany's political direction for the next generation.

She hinted that she was backing Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to succeed her, praising her electoral performance as chief minister of Saarland.

Kramp-Karrenbauer says she knows how to win elections, having defied expectations to win re-election in Saarland by a wide margin a year ago.

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.

In her farewell speech as leader, the 64-year-old Merkel said Friday that "our CDU today is different from the year 2000, and that is a good thing".

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"In hard times we shouldn't forget our Christian and democratic stance", she said.

Jens Spahn, Germany's 38-year-old health minister, has repeatedly spoken out against Merkel's open-door migration policy which resulted in the arrival of almost a million refugees.

The protegee's win will come as a relief to Merkel, whose chances of staying on as chancellor until 2021 partly hinge on how well she gets on with the new CDU chair.

"Now it's time to open a new chapter", said Merkel, who was visibly moved at the end of her speech.

"I expect her to remain chancellor and even see her become a bigger star, especially internationally, as she sounds freer to say what she wants", he added. Merkel's fourth-term governing coalition with the center-left Social Democrats has lurched through a series of crises since taking office in March, and the CDU has lost supporters both to the liberal Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

For years, Merkel's popularity lifted the CDU and its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union.

"We kept a cool head", she said. The most recent opinion polls put the CDU between 27% and 30%.

"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.

"Angela Merkel is one of the most widely admired and broadly influential statespeople of our time", Harvard President Larry Bacow told The Harvard Gazette.

The delegates rose and delivered a lengthy ovation to their long-time leader, with some holding up signs that simply said: "Thanks, boss".

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