Merkel protege Kramp-Karrenbauer succeeds her as German CDU leader

Friedrich Merz former German Christian Democratic Union faction leader left Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer General Secretary of the CDU and Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn right all members

Friedrich Merz former German Christian Democratic Union faction leader left Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer General Secretary of the CDU and Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn right all members

Often referred to as Angela Merkel's "protege" and even "Mini Merkel", CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been chosen as the conservative German party's next leader.

While Mrs Merkel has not explicitly endorsed any of the three candidates, Kramp-Karrenbauer is largely seen as her favourite having been brought into federal politics earlier this year in February when Merkel appointed her General Secretary of the party. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer narrowly defeated Friedrich Merz, a one-time Merkel rival, in a run-off at the party congress in Hamburg. The 63-year-old Merz advocates a more conservative, harsher approach to the party than Merkel, and in recent weeks, had advocated for a more combative approach to silencing those in the CDU center.

Newly elected party chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer waves after the election at the party convention of the Christian Democratic Democratic Union CDU in Hamburg, northern Germany, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.

Playing up her experience in regional government, she added to cheers and loud applause: "I learned what it is to lead - and above all learnt that leadership is more about being strong on the inside than being loud on the outside". Party insiders say Kramp-Karrenbauer gets on well with Merkel. After a decade as deputy leader of the powerful Women's CDU she then made the leap up into the party's national committee in 2010.

She married Helmut Karrenbauer in 1984, the same year she started her studies in law and political science.

The party will vote today on who replaces Merkel - putting them on track to be in the race to become the next Chancellor of the country in 2021.

"We have to have the courage to buck the zeitgeist", Kramp-Karrenbauer said in her speech to delegates.




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.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, has differentiated herself from Merkel on social and foreign policy by voting in favour of quotas for women on corporate boards, opposed by Merkel, and by taking a tougher line on Russian Federation.

AKK, who has also been referred to as "Mini Merkel" and a loyal follower of the current chancellor, is now expected to face an uphill battle as CDU leader.

Germany's neighbors are already concerned that the departure of Europe's longest serving leader could weaken the European Union. She has moved her party relentlessly to the center, dropping military conscription, accelerating Germany's exit from nuclear energy and introducing benefits such as encouraging fathers to look after their young children. He won 157 votes.

At present, the centre-right bloc is polling under 30 per cent. Merkel's fourth-term governing coalition with the centre-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.

'Now it is time to open a new chapter, ' Merkel said.

"There is still huge respect for Merkel because she gave stability in Europe at a time when things were rocky", said Judy Dempsey, a nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Europe think tank. "But. we faced an hour of destiny for the Christian Democratic Union 18 years ago".

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