Merkel ally Kramp-Karrenbauer elected new CDU leader

Merkel ally Kramp-Karrenbauer elected new CDU leader

Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Friday to take over as the party's leader from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Those cracks became more obvious this week when Schaeuble, who himself handed over the party leadership to Merkel 18 years ago, openly endorsed Merz as CDU chairman.

The 56-year-old, now CDU general secretary, beat Friedrich Merz by 517 to 482 votes to clinch the leadership position.

By contrast, Merz takes clear positions that appeal to rank-and-file party members hungry for a more clearly defined party after 13 years under Merkel as chancellor.

Friday's two-round vote came weeks after Merkel, 64, decided in October not to seek a re-election to the post, but expressed her readiness to stay on as Germany's chancellor for the remaining three years of her term.

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.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a Merkel ally, said: "I am convinced that with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer we have the best chance of the CDU winning an election".

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".

She shares many traits with her powerful mentor, including steadiness, pragmatism, and political acumen (she was state premier of Saarland for years), although she has been trying to subtly set herself apart, calling for stricter migration laws and a tougher response to Russian Federation over its recent aggression against Ukraine.

"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.

"Merz was just a bit too free-market, pro-American and pro-defense".

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She has been the CDU's general secretary, in charge of day-to-day political strategy, since February.

There was jubilation as the result of the run-off was announced.

"I am grateful for the time that is behind me, and I am glad for being able to continue working as chancellor", she said.

"You've got big shoes to fill", SPD leader Andrea Nahles wrote on Twitter.

It has lost support to the right, in the form of the upstart anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, and the resurgent Greens.

The contest's outcome is expected to be crucial in deciding whether Merkel, Europe's most influential leader, can realise her stated goal of completing her fourth term in 2021 and then leaving politics.

Earlier, an emotional Merkel bowed out as party leader, telling the congress: "It has been a great pleasure for me, it has been an honor".

Armin Laschet, premier of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, said the CDU needed to begin projecting an image of unity ahead of European elections next May.

In a brief, upbeat address before the vote that brought many delegates to their feet, she called on the party to reject the politics of fear as the far-right makes inroads in Germany and Europe.

That practical, non-ideological approach is similar to the style Merkel has employed as chancellor.

"In hard times we shouldn't forget our Christian and democratic stance", she said. "The chemistry is good", said one senior CDU official.

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