Published: Fri, December 07, 2018

Merkel says her party must look to the future

Merkel says her party must look to the future

As the head of Germany's largest party, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer could become the next German chancellor.

Merkel announced in October she would give up the reins in her party, though she has said she plans to remain chancellor until the end of the current term in 2021.

Merkel received rapturous applause from the CDU earlier on Friday, after delivering an emotional speech marking the end of 18 years as party leader.

"I wasn't born as chancellor or as party leader", she said.

The party has suffered a significant drop in support even at a national level according to polls, going from the 40 percent gathered during Mrs Merkel's most successful days to a mere 30 percent.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has celebrated her 18 years at the helm of Germany's main center-right party in her final speech as leader, urging members to show unity as it opens a new chapter.

The contest will now go to a second round where the choices of supporters of the third candidate, Jens Spahn, will be crucial.

Outlining the multiple challenges facing Germany, from rapidly changing technology to climate change and a global shift away from multilateralism to defending national interests, she said: "In times like these, we will defend our liberal views, our way of life, both at home and overseas".

"The CDU in 2018 must not look back but look forward, with new people. but with the same values", added Merkel, who has said she would remain neutral on her successor as party chief.

This week, Merz - who has insisted in the face of widespread scepticism that he could work well with Merkel - won the backing of powerful former finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, now the parliamentary speaker.

The favourites are CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel ally who is widely considered the chancellor's preferred successor and is closest to her centrist stance; and Friedrich Merz, a former leader of the party's parliamentary group who stands for a more conservative approach and is seeking a comeback after a decade away from front-line politics. "Merz could be tempted to see his revenge and lunge for power (as soon as next year)".

Whoever wins will face towering challenges for the party, which is now drawing roughly 30% at the polls, far below the around 40% it enjoyed during Merkel's heyday.

"The CDU of the Merkel years is falling apart", it said. Kirsten Dunz, author of book about Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

Few observers have dared to predict how the 1,000 delegates - political and party office holders - will vote.

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