Merkel ally Kramp-Karrenbauer elected new CDU leader

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, is flanked by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the newly elected chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), after her farewell speech during a party convention in Hamburg, Germany, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, is flanked by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the newly elected chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), after her farewell speech during a party convention in Hamburg, Germany, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo)

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was elected Friday the new leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU).

Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, won the leadership with 517 from 999 votes cast by delegates. Her rival, Friedrich Merz, won 482 votes in a run-off. A third candidate, Health Minister Jens Spahn, was eliminated in a first round of voting.

Kramp-Karrenbauer made her case ahead of the vote by saying the CDU had to maintain its position as the "last unicorn in Europe," the bloc's last successful catch-all party.

She also made a reference to her nickname, "mini Merkel," saying, "People consider me a 'mini,' a copy, a simple 'more of the same,' but I can tell you that I stand here as my own person, just as life has shaped me and of that I am proud."

The 56-year-old former state premier gained the nickname because of her pragmatic centrist political style and her reputation as a Merkel loyalist.

Kramp-Karrenbauer has been the CDU's general secretary, in charge of day-to-day political strategy, since February. She was previously a popular governor of western Saarland state.

She now inherits the task of improving the CDU's political fortunes and trying to win back voters from rivals to the right and left, while working with Merkel as chancellor until Germany's next election.

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