Merkel loyalist to replace her as leader of Germany's CDU party

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

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was elected Friday the new leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU).

If their candidate, BlackRock Inc.'s Friedrich Merz, beats Merkel acolyte Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer the chancellor's plans for a final three years in office may be called into question.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, won the leadership with 517 from 999 votes cast by delegates.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK to the party faithful, would maintain her mentor's strategy of looking to dominate the center ground of German politics, even though her agenda has divided their party.

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.

Current German Chancellor Mrs Merkel looked close to tears as she delivered her farewell speech to delegates in the room.

Merz will benefit from the fact that 296 of the delegates at the congress - nearly a third - will be from his home state, the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. "The future will test our values we must always approach work joyfully", she said.

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".

Delegates hold a cardboards reading: "Thank you chief for 18 years as CDU chairwoman" during Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party congress in Hamburg, Germany, December 7, 2018.

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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.

Harvard announced Friday that the German Chancellor would speak at the University's spring graduation ceremony in 2019 with The Hill reporting the comments of Harvard President Larry who said: "Over her four terms as Germany's chancellor, her leadership has done much to shape the course not only of her nation, but also of Europe and the larger world". In Friday's vote, he was backed by CDU members exhausted of Merkel's consensual politics, including party veteran Wolfgang Schaeuble.

A third contender, Health Minister Jens Spahn, 38, an outspoken critic of Merkel's 2015 decision to welcome more than one million asylum seekers to Germany, is running a distant third.

The political is a protege of Mrs Merkel's and is often referred to as "mini-Merkel".

In 2002, Merz lost to Merkel too. "Merz could be tempted to see his revenge and lunge for power (as soon as next year)".

Party insiders say Kramp-Karrenbauer gets on well with Merkel. "Opposing camps are forming". He won support this week from party veteran Wolfgang Schaeuble.

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.

The party has long languished in Merkel's shadow and could well decide to jump ship before 2021 to seek to avert further vote debacles - a move that would nearly certainly trigger new elections.

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