Germany‘s ruling party CDU chose to not break with its current political line and elected Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer as new leader. 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”. Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, beat out her main rival Friedrich Merz 517 votes against 482 at today’s CDU party conference, where 1,001 delegates were allowed to cast their ballot.
Mr Merz, a corporate lawyer, is known to be a staunch critic of Merkel’s policies and his victory would have represented a decisive break from the work done within the country and the party by the Chancellor in the last 18 years.
But the party opted for continuity and the endorsement of Mrs Merkel, who was elected CDU leader in 2000 and German Chancellor in 2005, and increased her chances of maintaining the current coalition government with the SPD and CSU until the end of term in 2021.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer has been the minister president of the regional government of The Saarland between 2011 and February 2018.
During the last 11 months, the politician, also known as AKK, has been the general secretary of the CDU.
Mrs Merkel took the party by surprise when she announced in October she would not run for a fourth term as a Chancellor and she would step down as a leader of her party at this year’s party convention.
Her resignation came as the CDU and its sister party CSU suffered two humiliating defeats in the key regional elections in Hesse and Bavaria, respectively one of the most important financial centre of the country and one of the areas most affected by immigration.
The party has suffered a significant drop in support even at a national level according to polls, going from the 40 percent gathered during Mrs Merkel’s most successful days to a mere 30 percent.
Mrs Merkel delivered her last speech as a leader of the party earlier today, during which she said it was for her a “pleasure” and an “honour” to be the CDU leader for 18 years.
And she also congratulated AKK on her 2017 electoral success in The Saarland, a clear hint the Chancellor prefers her over the other candidate.
Following the emotional moment, the delegates paid their respects to her with a 10-minute standing ovation.
As she fought to hold back tears at the conference today, the 64-year-old Chancellor said: “It has been a great pleasure for me, it has been an honour.
“In times like these, we will defend our liberal views, our way of life, both at home and abroad.
“The CDU in 2018 must not look back but look forward, with new people but with the same values.”
As the new leader of Germany’s most important party, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer could become the next German Chancellor in two-year time.