Germany's CDU party chooses Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as Merkel's successor

Mrs Merkel aims to continue on as German Chancellor until 2021

Germany's CDU party chooses Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as Merkel's successor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, congratulates newly elected party chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Picture by: Christian Charisius/AP/Press Association Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has today handed over the leadership of her political party after nearly 20 years at the helm.

Mrs Merkel aims to continue on as chancellor until 2021 – however she has agreed to step down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) following poor performances in the polls.

Deputy leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer - a key Merkel ally - was this afternoon chosen as the new leader of the CDU.

There had been two main candidates in line to take over the leadership.

Kramp-Karrenbauer is viewed as being similar to Mrs Merkel in terms of policy and temperament.

She previously led the party's Saarland branch, where she helped the CDU secure 40% of the vote in 2017 - up 5% on 2012, a result in contrast to losses suffered by the party nationally.

However, corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz had been outspoken in his wish to make a clean break from the Chancellor’s legacy.

Health Minister Jens Spahn was seen as being a distant third contender.

Ultimately, Kramp-Karrenbauer was elected with 517 votes to 482 for Merz.

Attendees arrive at the 31st CDU federal party conference, 07-12-2018. Image: Kay Nietfeld/DPA/PA Images

Mrs Merkel’s hopes of remaining on as Chancellor into 2021 before stepping away from policy will rest on the outcome of the vote.

Speaking ahead of the vote she said: “I'm very grateful that I could be party chairwoman for 18 years.”

“It is a very, very long time and the CDU of course had its ups and downs.

“But we won four national elections together [...] and I am happy I can remain chancellor.”

Mrs Merkel has led Germany since 2005.

The move to exit Germany from reliance on nuclear power and end military conscription were among her signature policies.

She will also be remembered for her liberal policy on asylum seekers.

Additional reporting by Stephen McNeice