Angela Merkel named as Harvard’s 2019 Commencement Speaker

Merkel, however, recalled that the CDU was in a deep crisis when she took over in 2000, mired in a party financing scandal surrounding ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been elected leader of Germany's ruling Christian Democrat Union (CDU) party, bringing Angela Merkel's 18 years at the helm to an end.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer waves to delegates after receiving the most votes to become the next leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Merkel, a Lutheran woman who grew up in the former Communist East where she moved when she was an infant, has always been something of an outsider in the male-dominated, Catholic party.

The two main candidates, CDU deputy leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (known as AKK) and corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz, are locked in a battle over whether to embrace or break with the veteran chancellor's legacy.

"It has been a great pleasure for me, it has been an honour", Merkel said, as she received a standing ovation lasting almost 10 minutes, and she was herself trying hard to hold back tears.

Current German Chancellor Mrs Merkel looked close to tears as she delivered her farewell speech to delegates in the room.

The newly elected CDU head has previously opposed the idea of withdrawing support from the Nord Stream 2 project entirely, but suggested reducing the amount of gas obtained via the route from Russian Federation as a response to the recent Kerch incident involving Ukrainian naval ships.

Ms Merkel is stepping down as leader after 18 years but has pledged to remain as chancellor - something that would be easier if Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, seen as an ally, succeeds her in the CDU role. "AKK represents the emergence of a new generation and the "change with continuity" that makes many German voters comfortable".

Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, has differentiated herself from Merkel on social and foreign policy by voting in favour of quotas for women on corporate boards and by taking a tougher line on Russian Federation. Federal health minister Jens Spahn came in third.

One of the most recent examples of Merz wanting a change of course for the CDU has been his outspoken criticism of the United Nations migration pact, which was revealed to have been largely drafted by the Merkel government starting in 2016.

"Leadership is more about the inner strength than outer volume".

"The election of AKK as leader of the CDU is an indication of the continuing strength of Angela Merkel in her party".

For years, Merkel's popularity lifted the CDU and its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union.

"People, we have a lot to get done today", Merkel told them. "And I'm still chancellor", she said. In the 2013 election, they won 41.5 percent of the vote and only just fell short of an outright parliamentary majority.

"We must have the courage to stay the course against the Zeitgeist", she said. Merkel's fourth-term governing coalition with the center-left Social Democrats has lurched through a series of crises since taking office in March, and the CDU has lost supporters both to the liberal Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

"We are facing a turning point and need a breakthrough for the next years".

Merkel was greeted by a long standing ovation, with some delegates holding up "Thank you, boss" placards.

  • Rogelio Becker