Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave an emotional farewell speech to her ruling Christian Democrats Union (CDU) party as she stepped down as its leader on Friday and was given a standing ovation of over six minutes. Her conservative party of 1,001 representatives, among them 658 male and 343 females, was set to vote later in the day to decide on a successor to 64-year-old Merkel, its leader of 18 years. She decided not to re-run in October, after suffering major setbacks in two state elections earlier this year.
Merkel fought back tears as CDU delegates gave her the standing ovation amid cheers and cries. Delegates held posters stating: “Thanks boss, for 18 years of leadership”. She hinted she was supporting the party’s current General Secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, to succeed her, praising her electoral performance as Chief Minister of Saarland, the BBC reported. According to a DeutschlandTrend survey, 47% of CDU supporters would like Kramp-Karrenbauer to take the party lead. Popular in Saarland and Berlin, Kramp-Karrenbauer has an unpretentious style and a reputation for calm analysis as well as political acumen.
Kramp-Karrenbauer’s key rival is millionaire corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz. He was a powerful player in the CDU in the early 2000s but left politics when he fell out with the Chancellor. Merz has strong links to the US, has built a career in the private sector and works for US investment firm Blackrock. Jens Spahn, currently the Health Minister in Merkel’s government and the third candidate in the running, appeared to have less chance of winning.