Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is elected as leader of German CDU

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is elected as leader of German CDU

German Chancellor and leader of the German Christian Democrats Angela Merkel waves after her last speech as party leader on Friday in Hamburg, Germany.

(AAP) German Chancellor Angela Merkel embraces her newly-elected replacement as CDU leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

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.

During the leadership campaign, Merz delighted rank-and-file CDU members hungry for a more clearly defined party after 13 years of consensus-type leadership under Merkel by calling for tax cuts and a more robust approach to tackling the far right.

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"Our liberal values must be defended, internally and externally", she said. She eventually returned to the microphone and reminded the delegates they still had "a lot of work to do".

"But we won four national elections together ... and I am happy I can remain chancellor".

CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK, is one of the candidates tipped to take over from Merkel. "Dear delegates, I stand before you as I am and as life made me and I am proud of that".

She described herself as a mother of three "who knows herself how hard it is to reconcile family and professional life" and listed her long experience in regional government.

Her popularity has waned since her 2015 open-doors migrant policy and the CDU has suffered heavy electoral losses at the state level.

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"Domestically, AKK is likely to sharpen the social policy profile of the CDU and she can appeal to some on the party's more conservative wing", Jorns Fleck, an expert on German politics, told Newsweek.

While AKK, 56, is viewed as a keeper of the flame and similar to Merkel with an even temper and middle-of-the-road policies, Merz, 63, has become the torchbearer for those seeking a more decisive break with the chancellor.

On the campaign trail for the post of party leader, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer gained a reputation for explaining her politics by means of homely anecdotes from her small village just a few kilometers from the French border.

The new CDU leader will be chosen by 1,001 delegates who vote at the congress later on Friday. She has moved her party relentlessly to the center, dropping military conscription, accelerating Germany's exit from nuclear energy and introducing benefits such as encouraging fathers to look after their young children.

A staunch Catholic, Kramp-Karrenbauer has spoken out in favour of a ban on doctors who carry out abortions being able to advertise their services, after a court case propelled the topic into the headlines, and is also openly sceptical about the "marriage for all" law campaigned for by her opponent, Jens Spahn, who is married to his male partner.

She added: "I learned what it is to lead - and above all learnt that leadership is more about being strong on the inside than being loud on the outside".

Merkel listed some of those moments and many more in a half-hour farewell speech as leader, telling delegates that 'our CDU today is different from the year 2000, and that is a good thing'.

Months before the national election where the CDU slumped to its worst result since 1949 winning just 32.9 per cent of the national vote, she managed to secure over 40 percent of the vote in Saarland, marking her out as a victor in a field of losers.

Whoever wins will face towering challenges for the party, which is now drawing roughly 30 per cent at the polls, far below the around 40 per cent enjoyed during Merkel's heyday.

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