Angela Merkel loyalist Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer succeeds chancellor as CDU leader
08 December 2018, 04:14 | Devin Moran
Merkel’s party chooses successor to longtime German leader
The Christian Democrat party has chosen a new leader after 18 years with Angela Merkel at the helm. The result points to policy continuity, and Kramp-Karrenbauer should be able to work well with Merkel as she serves out her term as chancellor.
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.
In a speech Friday before the Christian Democratic Union elects a new leader, Merkel recalled that she took office in 2000 when the party was in a deep crisis.
With a warning against taking on nationalists on their own turf, Merkel left her party with an imprint of her legacy: the Lutheran pastor's daughter who wasn't predestined for a political career, but won four elections while resisting extremist rhetoric and at times the public derision of her opponents.
What she has said about the Merkel era became something of a slogan for her candidacy: "One cannot arbitrarily continue in the same vein, neither can one dismiss it". "Both candidates had more or less 50 percent, and they are representing two different directions for the party". Kramp-Karrenbauer is 56 and Merz 63, only a year younger than the chancellor.
A survey by pollster Infratest dimap for broadcaster ARD on Thursday showed 47 per cent of CDU members favoured Kramp-Karrenbauer compared with 37 per cent for Merz and 12 per cent for Health Minister Jens Spahn.
Merkel, 64, had earlier mounted a staunch defense of her moderate course since becoming chancellor in 2005.
"Leadership is more about the inner strength than outer volume".
"This is democratic order, which reflects a self-confident party", she said.
While she generally supported Merkel's open-door policy towards migrants, she has admitted that grave mistakes have been made, and has pushed for a ban on refugees with criminal convictions being allowed back into Germany. She also celebrated Germany's balancing its budget in recent years and its response to the eurozone debt crisis.
Months before the national election where the CDU slumped to its worst result since 1949 winning just 32.9 per cent of the national vote, she managed to secure over 40 percent of the vote in Saarland, marking her out as a victor in a field of losers.
She hinted that she was backing Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to succeed her, praising her electoral performance as chief minister of Saarland.
"We are facing a turning point and need a breakthrough for the next years".
"Merkel does not show much emotion herself but above all we respect her and want to show gratitude to her", said Tobias Loose, a delegate from the northern state of Schleswig Holstein.
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. "And I'm still chancellor", she said. "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".
Party insiders say Kramp-Karrenbauer gets on well with Merkel. She was greeted by a several-minute standing ovation, with some delegates holding up 'Thank you, boss!' placards.
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