Kramp-Karrenbauer succeeds Merkel as German CDU's new leader

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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was elected new chairperson of Germany's ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at the party's 31st national congress on Friday, succeeding Chancellor Angela Merkel who has led the party for 18 years.

The 56-year-old CDU secretary general, often referred to as "AKK", received 517 votes while candidate Friedrich Merz won 482 in the second round of the election. German Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn who is also a candidate for the CDU leadership, had been disqualified in the first round of the election.

It is the first time that the CDU has a new leader in 18 years since Merkel took the post in 2000. Merkel announced at the end of October that she would not seek re-election of the party leader but would remain German Chancellor till 2021.

The leader of the CDU, the biggest party in Germany, usually becomes the candidate for the chancellorship and is likely to succeed Merkel's post as chancellor.

"I accept the election," said Kramp-Karrenbauer after the announcement of the election result. She also thanked the delegates and in particular Jens Spahn and Friedrich Merz for "this fair competition".

"This upswing needs to continue," she said, adding that the goal is to obtain from the Union with all its wings and all the common members, in a bid to form a large people's party sitting in the middle.

Kramp-Karrenbauer also invited her competitor Spahn and Merz to work together in realizing the party's vision.

The election of Kramp-Karrenbauer was largely seen as the beginning of the end of Merkel's era, with many tricky problems still lying ahead.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, although seen as a Merkel loyalist, is expected to learn to coordinate party strategies with government policies, and cope with the other two governing parties, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The German government has already been shaky for several months with fierce struggle within the governing coalition.

The governing parties all suffered severe setbacks in two state elections this year, and SPD has been considering to quit the coalition government, as many claimed the cooperation with CDU has pushed the party to the center, losing its socialist identity.

Andrea Nahles, the SPD leader, sent her congratulations after Kramp-Karrenbauer's victory while reminding that "now it is time to solve problems."

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