Ger­mans salute An­gela – and wel­come An­negret as new party leader

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - World - Deb­o­rah Cole

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel on Fri­day of­fered a staunch de­fence of her mod­er­ate course dur­ing 18 years as party leader, as her Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union chose be­tween a loyal deputy and a long­time ri­val to suc­ceed her.

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 co-op­er­a­tion 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.

The two main can­di­dates, CDU gen­eral sec­re­tary An­negret Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, known as AKK, and cor­po­rate lawyer Friedrich Merz, were locked in a bat­tle over whether to em­brace or break with the vet­eran chan­cel­lor’s legacy.

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, was a dis­tant third.

But it was Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, a close ally of Merkel, who won the tight race to suc­ceed her as party leader on Fri­day, see­ing off the long­time ri­val of the Ger­man chan­cel­lor.

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

Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, 56, pledged to main­tain con­ti­nu­ity af­ter 18 years of Merkel at the helm while open­ing up the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union 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 far­right makes in­roads in Ger­many and Europe.

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

Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer beat 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.

Pho­to­graph: FABIAN BIMMER/REUTERS

THANKS: End of the Merkel era

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