CDU Succession Vote: Delegates to pick Merkel's successor

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer

The favourites are CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel ally who is widely considered the chancellor's preferred successor and is closest to her centrist stance; and Friedrich Merz, a former leader of the party's parliamentary group who stands for a more conservative approach and is seeking a comeback after a decade away from front-line politics.

Harvard announced on Friday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will deliver the school's 2019 commencement address on May 30. (AAP) German Chancellor Angela Merkel embraces her newly-elected replacement as CDU leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. She won the leadership with 517 votes from 999 votes cast by delegates.

In a brief, upbeat address before the vote that brought many delegates to their feet, she called on the party to reject the politics of fear as the far-right makes inroads in Germany and Europe.

(AAP) Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer reacts as she is elected the new leader of Germany's CDU party. More generous family leave, an exit from nuclear power and an end to military conscription are among her signature policies.

A survey by pollster Infratest dimap for broadcaster ARD on Thursday showed 47 per cent of CDU members favoured Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer compared with 37 per cent for Mr Merz and 12 per cent for Health Minister Jens Spahn.

Even AKK herself said there was nothing mini about her as a 56-year-old woman with grown-up children and an entire political career of her own.

Merz, 63, who lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002 and is returning to politics after a decade in business, is backed by CDU members exhausted of Merkel's consensual politics. She has pledged to listen to the party more than Merkel did, and to be less passive, and more willing to challenge the status quo, repeatedly using the complex phrase "the normative power of facts" ("die normative Kraft des Faktischen") to argue: "I will be less inclined to accept as immutable fact that things are the way they are".

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One senior CDU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said many delegates were undecided before the congress and could be swayed by how the candidates present themselves on Friday.

Merkel has been CDU leader since 2000 and chancellor since 2005. Daniel Kirch, political correspondent at Saarbrücker Zeitung said.

"The CDU of the Merkel years is falling apart", it said. "Opposing camps are forming".

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.

It has bled support to the right, in the form of the upstart anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, and to the resurgent Greens on the left.

Armin Laschet, premier of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, said the CDU needed to begin projecting an image of unity ahead of European elections next May.

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