Merkel ally elected leader of chancellor's party

German Chancellor Merkel set to give up party chair refugee policy viewed by some as sore spot

Earlier during her farewell speech as party leader, Mrs Merkel praised Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer - who is known as AKK - for her 2017 electoral success in Saarland, in a clear hint of the chancellor's personal preference in the leadership race.

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

The 56-year old AKK, on the other hand, is viewed as similar to chancellor Angela Merkel, with an even temper and centrist policies.

But for the first time since 1971, CDU delegates were on Friday being given the opportunity to elect their new party leader from among several candidates.

She beat CDU rival Friedrich Merz narrowly, claiming 517 votes of the 999 cast by party delegates.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a Merkel ally, said: "I am convinced that with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer we have the best chance of the CDU winning an election". "We will all miss her", he said.

"Fundamental questions must be asked in the party", she told German tabloid Bild. "I want that to be the case tomorrow too".

"Schaeuble's manoeuvre shows: the CDU of the old Germany is trying to make a comeback", news weekly Der Spiegel said.

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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. "I stand here as I am and how life has formed me, and I am proud of that".

She vowed to fight to win upcoming state elections and took a swipe at Merz, who left politics after losing a power struggle with Merkel, by pointing to 18 years of uninterrupted service for the CDU. She becomes only the eighth leader of the CDU since World War II.

In 18 years of experience, she said she "learned that leadership is more about internal strength then external volume".

"There is still huge respect for Merkel because she gave stability in Europe at a time when things were rocky", said Judy Dempsey, a nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Europe think tank. But the mother of three also inherits the hard task of ending the CDU's lackluster showing over the past three years in local, regional and national elections, as well as winning back hundreds of thousands of voters. But she has warned that endlessly rehashing debates about Merkel's decision to allow in large numbers of migrants in 2015 is a turn-off for voters.

After a smattering of applause throughout the course of her final speech as CDU chief, Merkel was bid farewell with a rousing standing ovation that lasted about 10 minutes and included a brief encore.

For years, Merkel's popularity lifted the CDU and its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union. He won 157 votes. The most recent opinion polls put the CDU between 27% and 30%.

Majority defected to the far-right Alternative for Germany over Merkel's controversial decision to openly welcome asylum seekers back in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and others came to Germany and other European Union countries to escape war and poverty.

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