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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel ally, wins fight to head CDU in Germany

December 7, 2018

A key ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has won the hotly contested battle to head the center-right Christian Democratic Union, narrowly defeating a rival who pledged to take the party in a more pronounced conservative direction.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a veteran CDU official who has worked closely with the longtime chancellor, defeated businessman Friedrich Merz in a party vote Friday, setting herself up as the CDU’s likely candidate when Mrs. Merkel steps down as promised in 2021.

The 56-year-old Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer has served as interior minister and governor of the small state of Saarland. She campaigned on bringing the CDU together after the party was buffeted by strains over immigration policy and the rise of a far-right party that cut into its support.

Mr. Merz, who quit politics in 2009 after a power struggle with Mrs. Merkel, promised a more sweeping vision, saying the party must take a more pro-business stance and forcefully address the loss of conservative voters under Mrs. Merkel to the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party.

A third candidate, Health Minister Jens Spahn, was eliminated in the first round of voting for a new party chief.

Mrs. Merkel has dominated the German political scene since taking office in 2005, but her political position has become precarious as right- and left-wing parties have made electoral gains. She has said she will serve through 2021, but many in Germany expect elections to be called well before then.

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