Published: Sun, December 09, 2018
World News | By Sandy Lane

German conservatives to replace Merkel with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as party head

German conservatives to replace Merkel with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as party head

German Chancellor and leader of the German Christian Democrats Angela Merkel waves after her last speech as party leader on Friday in Hamburg, Germany.

Kramp-Karrenbauer worked as general secretary beginning in February, 2018.

Kramp-Karrenbauer narrowly defeated Friedrich Merz, a one-time Merkel rival, at a congress of the Christian Democratic Union in Hamburg overnight.

Her successor is a close ally and very much in the same mould.

German party leaders, including Merkel, have traditionally been selected through backroom deals and faced no competition during confirmation votes at party conventions. At 38, he would represent a generational change. In his concession speech, Merz offered his backing for Kramp-Karrenbauer and urged his supporters to get behind the party's new leader.

She nominated Paul Ziemiak, the 33-year-old leader of the party's youth wing, to serve as her general secretary - the official in charge of day-to-day political strategy and the job she held herself until she was elected leader.

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A party led by Merz "would be the best thing for the country", Schaeuble, one of only two postwar CDU leaders not to become chancellor, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday.

"The election of AKK as leader of the CDU is an indication of the continuing strength of Angela Merkel in her party".

'We are in demanding times today, no doubt about that, ' she said.

The third candidate - vocal Merkel critic and current health minister Jens Spahn - lost in the first round.

Kramp-Karrenbauer is also considered the front-runner to take over the chancellorship when Merkel's term ends in 2021.

She also celebrated Germany's balancing its budget in recent years and its response to the eurozone debt crisis.

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Kramp-Karrenbauer - often known as "AKK" - will be the favourite to run for chancellor in the next election, though that isn't automatic. She announced her decision to stand down as party leader in October. She has moved her party relentlessly to the centre, dropping military conscription, accelerating Germany's exit from nuclear energy and introducing benefits encouraging fathers to look after their young children.

In his speech, Merz highlighted the need to tackle the "intolerable" success of the far-right Alternative for Germany party and called for a more combative approach toward the CDU's rivals in the political center ground.

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

"There's a place for both in this party", Kramp-Karrenbauer said, adding the renewed confidence their party elections raised in Germans "must continue and must be connected with the goal that unites us all, to preserve and shape our great people's party".

"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, 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.

"The Merkel era is palpably coming to an end", political journalist and AKK biographer Kristina Dunz said. She was greeted by a several-minute standing ovation, with some delegates holding up "Thank you, boss!" placards.

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