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07 December 2018, 07:24 | Glen Norman
Image Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer is the new leader of the CDU
Germany's ruling party CDU chose to not break with its current political line and elected Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer as new leader.
Mrs Merkel took the party by surprise when she announced in October she would not run for a fourth term as a Chancellor and she would step down as a leader of her party at this year's party convention. Had Merz won, it would probably have meant an untimely end to Merkel's reign, since she pushed him out of politics in the early 2000s, and he believes she led the party too far left of centre.
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", adding she would be the most unsafe candidate to face the centre-left Social Democrats and the ecologist Greens.
During the campaign, she took a more cautious stance on the future of Europe than Merz, who said Germany should "contribute more" to the European Union as it benefits from a euro common currency that is "too weak for our economy".
But she clinched only a narrow victory over Friedrich Merz, a long-time Merkel rival, in a run-off vote in Hamburg, with 51.8% of the vote.
Merkel, 64, is quitting the helm of the CDU after a series of poll setbacks rooted in controversy over her liberal refugee policy. More generous family leave, an exit from nuclear power and an end to military conscription are among her signature policies. "Merz could be tempted to see his revenge and lunge for power (as soon as next year)".
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One senior CDU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said many delegates were undecided before the congress and could be swayed by how the candidates present themselves on Friday.
After being nominated by Chancellor Merkel, AKK was elected as CDU general secretary with a record 98.9% of the vote.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer has said she wants to improve on Ms Merkel's legacy and has suggested she would encourage debate within her party on issues such as immigration to encourage new proposals that could become government policy. Daniel Kirch, political correspondent at Saarbrücker Zeitung said.
Few observers have dared to predict how the 1,000 delegates - political and party office holders - will vote.
Whoever wins will face towering challenges for the party, which is now drawing around 28 percent at the polls, far below the around 40 percent enjoyed during Merkel's heyday.
But on what lies ahead for the CDU, Kramp-Karrenbauer said when campaigning: "I have no particular recipe".
"We can't afford another year like 2018 when we fought so much", he told public broadcaster ZDF.
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