CDU Succession Vote: Delegates to pick Merkel's successor

Infighting hits Merkel's party before vote on successor

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

In her farewell speech after 18 years at the head of Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union, Mrs Merkel made an emotional appeal to the party to stay in the political centre as 1,001 delegates prepared to voted in a secret ballot for their new leader.

Some grandees have warned that the divisions could lead to a permanent split.

"I'm very grateful that I could be party chairwoman for 18 years - it is a very, very long time and the CDU of course had its ups and downs", Merkel said as she arrived at the conference venue in Hamburg. Until recently the contest had been largely good-humoured, with heavyweight politicians on both...

Chancellor Angela Merkel's party is meeting to elect a new leader who could help shape Germany's political direction for the next generation.

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.

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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.

In the first round, Kramp-Karrenbauer won 450 votes, Merz took 392 votes and Health Minister Jens Spahn was eliminated with 157 votes.

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.

Most controversially, she allowed large numbers of asylum-seekers into Germany in 2015. In the 2013 election, they won 41.5 per cent of the vote and only just fell short of an outright parliamentary majority.

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".

"I am grateful for the time that is behind me, and I am glad for being able to continue working as chancellor", she said. She was greeted by a several-minute standing ovation, with some delegates holding up 'Thank you, boss!' placards.

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