Close ally to re­place Merkel as Ger­man party leader

Manila Bulletin - - World News -

HAM­BURG (AFP) – An­negret Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, a close ally of An­gela Merkel, won a tight race to suc­ceed her as party leader Fri­day, see­ing off a long­time ri­val of the Ger­man chan­cel­lor.

The con­test, which re­quired a runoff vote to se­cure a 52-per­cent ma­jor­ity for AKK as she is known, is ex­pected to in­crease the like­li­hood that Merkel will be able to see out her fourth term un­til 2021.

AKK, 56, pledged to main­tain con­ti­nu­ity af­ter 18 years of Merkel at the helm while open­ing up the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU) to more grass­roots democ­racy.

In a brief, up­beat ad­dress be­fore the vote that brought many del­e­gates to their feet, she called on the party to re­ject the pol­i­tics of fear as the far-right makes in­roads in Ger­many and Europe.

''We must have the courage to stay the course against the Zeit­geist,'' she said.

AKK beat cor­po­rate lawyer Friedrich Merz, 63, who had quit pol­i­tics in 2009 af­ter los­ing a power strug­gle against Merkel and long nursed a grudge against the more cen­trist chan­cel­lor.

The third can­di­date – vo­cal Merkel critic and cur­rent health min­is­ter Jens Spahn – lost in the first round.

Merkel, 64, had ear­lier mounted a staunch de­fence of her mod­er­ate course since be­com­ing chan­cel­lor in 2005.

Ac­cept­ing a lengthy stand­ing ova­tion from del­e­gates, many tear­ful and hold­ing ''Thanks, boss'' plac­ards aloft, a vis­i­bly moved Merkel said the party had won four na­tional elec­tions un­der her by hold­ing fast to its prin­ci­ples.

''In dif­fi­cult times we shouldn't for­get our Chris­tian and demo­cratic stance,'' she said.

Point­ing to the rise of pop­ulism world­wide and what she called a break­down of shared West­ern val­ues, Merkel said the order she had cham­pi­oned was at risk.

''Whether it's the re­jec­tion of mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, the re­turn to na­tion­al­ism, the re­duc­tion of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion to deal-mak­ing or threat­ened trade wars... hy­brid war­fare, destab­li­sa­tion of so­ci­eties with fake news or the fu­ture of our EU – we Chris­tian Democrats must show in the face of all these chal­lenges what we've got,'' she said.

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