New head of Merkel party seeks to build bridges with rivals

End of an era: Merkel passes torch to new party leader

End of an era: Merkel passes torch to new party leader

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, narrowly defeated one-time Merkel rival Friedrich Merz at a congress of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, appointed earlier this year by Merkel as the party's general secretary, withstood an energetic challenge from Merz, who was seeking a political comeback with the backing of party heavyweights such as former finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Of the 999 votes cast at a party conference in Hamburg, 517 - or 52 per cent - were in favour of Kramp-Karrenbauer, while 482 (48 per cent) backed Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who had been attempting a comeback after being sidelined by Merkel almost a decade ago.

In an emotional farewell for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Christian Democratic Union party delegates gathered to elect a successor in Hamburg, the city where Merkel was born.

"We need a change in strategy on the issues, in our attitude to our political opponents and, above all, in the way we communicate with the people in our nation".

She hinted that she was backing Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to succeed her, praising her electoral performance as chief minister of Saarland.

Kramp-Karrenbauer's trump card is her record as a former state premier in Saarland, where she led a broad coalition with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats, alliance-building skills useful in Germany's fractured political landscape.

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

"Our liberal values must be defended, internally and externally", she said.

She is known for voicing concerns regarding giving full adoption rights to same-sex couples and has also argued against revising the definition of marriage to being simply "a long-term responsible partnership between two adults", claiming it could lead to demands to legalise marriages between close relatives, humans and animals, as well as polygamy.

Her task now is to improve the standing of the CDU, fight to win back voters on the left and the right and work with Mrs Merkel closely.

Merkel hinted she intends to stay on as chancellor till her term ends in 2021.

Kramp-Karrenbauer is the favorite to run for chancellor in the next election, though that isn't automatic. 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.

"The CDU of the Merkel years is falling apart", it said.

At present, the center-right bloc is polling around or below 30 percent.

"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, destablisation 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 warned delegates.

"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. 'I have always wanted to do my government and party jobs with dignity, and one day to leave them with dignity'.

"Angela Merkel is one of the most widely admired and broadly influential statespeople of our time", Harvard President Larry Bacow told The Harvard Gazette. CDU delegates at the congress in Hamburg also held up signs saying "Thanks boss".

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