Ger­man con­ser­va­tives pick Merkel ally as party leader

The Buffalo News - - CONTINUED FROM THE COVER - By Melissa Eddy and Ka­trin Bennhold NEW YORK TIMES

HAM­BURG, Ger­many – Ger­man con­ser­va­tives opted for con­ti­nu­ity rather than change Fri­day, elect­ing An­negret Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, an ally of An­gela Merkel, to suc­ceed Merkel as their party leader and giv­ing her the in­side track on be­com­ing the next chan­cel­lor of Ger­many.

The vote by del­e­gates of the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union is the first con­crete step into the post-Merkel era af­ter her 18 years as leader of Europe’s big­gest con­ser­va­tive party and 13 years as chan­cel­lor. For many con­ser­va­tives, it also served as an en­dorse­ment of Merkel’s legacy.

By choos­ing Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer, 56, a woman whose mod­est lead­er­ship style is rem­i­nis­cent of the chan­cel­lor’s, the party sig­naled a de­sire to keep to the cen­trist, so­cially con­scious course set by Merkel. As party leader, she is likely to be­come the Chris­tian Democrats’ can­di­date for chan­cel­lor dur­ing the next gen­eral elec­tion, now sched­uled for 2021.

Fri­day’s vote in­creased Merkel’s chances of main­tain­ing the cur­rent coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the cen­ter-left So­cial Democrats, and com­plet­ing what she says will be her fi­nal term in of­fice, though it could also leave the Chris­tian Democrats deeply split.

Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer’s chief ri­val for party lead­er­ship, Friedrich Merz, an out­spo­ken mil­lion­aire and for­mer ri­val of Merkel, had been seen as the can­di­date who would re­store the party’s con­ser­va­tive val­ues and would lure vot­ers back from the far­right party Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many.

No one won a ma­jor­ity in the first round of vot­ing, with Jens Spahn, Ger­many’s health minister, also in the run­ning. Kramp-Kar­ren­bauer de­feated Merz in a runoff, 517-482.

“This shows that there is a great con­ti­nu­ity in Ger­man pol­i­tics,” said Ar­min Laschet, the premier of NorthRhine West­phalia, Ger­many’s big­gest state. “There is no fun­da­men­tal wish to change things.”

And, he said, it sends a “strong sig­nal” to women to have an­other woman suc­ceed Merkel.

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