Kramp-Karrenbauer wins first round vote to replace Merkel as CDU leader

Evarado Alatorre
Diciembre 7, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hand over the reins of her Christian Democratic Union after almost two decades, with the fate of the divided party up for grabs between a loyal deputy and a longtime rival. In Friday's vote, he was backed by CDU members exhausted of Merkel's consensual politics, including party veteran Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer beat millionaire businessman Friedrich Merz in the second round.

Merkel said in October she would step down as party chief but remain chancellor, an effort to manage her exit after a series of setbacks since her divisive decision in 2015 to keep German borders open to refugees fleeing war in the Middle East. This afternoon 1,001 CDU delegates will assemble in Hamburg to choose a new leader after 18 years under Mrs Merkel.

Accepting a lengthy standing ovation from delegates, many tearful and holding "Thanks, boss" placards aloft, a visibly moved Merkel said the party had won four national elections under her by holding fast to its principles. Whoever wins will be favourite to run for chancellor in the next election, though that isn't automatic.

"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, destabilisation 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.

The three candidates Favourite Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer, Friedrich Merz and Jens Spahn
The three candidates Favourite Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer, Friedrich Merz and Jens Spahn

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.

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

Kramp-Karrenbauer faced the challenge during the leadership battle of both wanting to appear to support Merkel and signalling that she would take the party in a new direction. "Merz could be tempted to see his revenge and lunge for power (as soon as next year)".

Chancellor Merkel has led the centre-right CDU for nearly 20 years, but has decided not to stand again for the post when her current and fourth term as German Chancellor comes to an end. Daniel Kirch, political correspondent at Saarbrücker Zeitung said. But on what lies ahead for the CDU, Kramp-Karrenbauer said: "I have no particular recipe".

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

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