Kramp-Karrenbauer succeeds Merkel as German CDU's new leader

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was elected new chairperson of Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union at the party's 31st national congress on Friday.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer delivers a speech prior to the election of new chairperson of Germany's Christian Democratic Union during the party conference in Hamburg, Germany, on December 7, 2018. 

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was elected new chairperson of Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union at the party's 31st national congress on Friday, succeeding Chancellor Angela Merkel who has led the party for 18 years.

The 56-year-old CDU secretary general, often referred to as "AKK," received 517 votes while candidate Friedrich Merz won 482 in the second round of the election. German Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn who is also a candidate for the CDU leadership, had been disqualified in the first round of the election.

It is the first time that the CDU has a new leader in 18 years since Merkel took the post in 2000. Merkel announced at the end of October that she would not seek re-election of the party leader but would remain German Chancellor till 2021.

The leader of the CDU, the biggest party in Germany, usually becomes the candidate for the chancellorship and is likely to succeed Merkel's post as chancellor.

"I accept the election," said Kramp-Karrenbauer after the announcement of the election result. She also thanked the delegates and in particular Jens Spahn and Friedrich Merz for "this fair competition."

"This upswing needs to continue," she said, adding that the goal is to obtain from the Union with all its wings and all the common members, in a bid to form a large people's party sitting in the middle.

Kramp-Karrenbauer also invited her competitor Spahn and Merz to work together in realizing the party's vision.

Seen as a "Mini-Merkel," Kramp-Karrenbauer might inherit most of Merkel's policies keeping CDU as a centrist and inclusive party as she said previously in the regional party gathering that "no one can be cut off from the past," echoing Merkel's remarks that the party should return to "past traditions and attitudes."

She openly support Merkel's controversial migration policies that partly led to the influx of more than a million migrants into Germany in 2015, while she called for tougher actions against asylums who deceive authorities about their identities.

Some local analysts dubbed Kramp-Karrenbauer's doctrine as "modern conservatism", as she is "economically left" in advocating the minimum wage and raising the top rate of tax, while "socially conservative" in holding negative views on abortions and same-sex marriages.

Friday's election of Kramp-Karrenbauer was largely seen as the beginning of the end of Merkel's era, a time that many tricky problems still lie ahead.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, although seen as a Merkel loyalist, might first learn to coordinate party strategies with government policies, and the way to cope with the other two governing parties, the Christian Social Union and Social Democratic Party.

The German government has already been shaky for several months since the fierce struggle within the governing coalition.

The governing parties all suffered severe setbacks in two state elections this year, and SPD has been considering to quit the coalition government, as many claimed the cooperation with CDU has pushed the party to the center, losing its socialist identity.

Andrea Nahles, the SPD leader, sent her congratulations after Kramp-Karrenbauer's victory while reminding that "now it is time to solve problems."

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