Angela Merkel replacement REVEALED: ‘Mini-Merkel’ Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wins CDU vote

Infighting hits Merkel's party before vote on successor

Infighting hits Merkel's party before vote on successor

German Chancellor and chairwoman of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Merkel, waves after her farewell speech during a party convention of the CDU in Hamburg, Germany, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. The politician is a supporter of the German Chancellor's policies and has been often referred to as Mrs Merkel's "protege" or even "Mini Merkel". (AAP) German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives a standing ovation as she farewells her party leadership.

Mr Merz, 63, the standard-bearer of the CDU's right, is locked in a close-run race with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, who is regarded as Mrs Merkel's choice. She won the leadership with 517 votes from 999 votes cast by delegates.

Merkel has led Germany since 2005, and moved the party and country steadily toward the political centre.

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.

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.

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 seen as being in a distant third place.

"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 said.

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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 and the current parliamentary speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble.

She joined the CDU in 1981 as a 19-year-old student and, after completing a masters in political science, worked in state-level politics.

She told Reuters last week that Europe and the United States should consider blockading Russian ships over the Ukraine crisis.

But on what lies ahead for the CDU, Kramp-Karrenbauer said when campaigning: "I have no particular recipe".

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.

As both women will have been well aware, an endorsement from Merkel - already associated with an era from which the party is desperate to move on - may well have done more to hinder than to help her chances.

"It could come down to the speeches on the day", he said.

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