‘It’s been an honour,’ says Merkel as German CDU picks new leader

HAMBURG (Reuters) – Angela Merkel bowed out as leader of her Christian Democrats on Friday with an emotional speech to her conservative party as it met to pick her successor who will move into pole position to become Germany’s next chancellor.

The frontrunners are Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel protege seen as the continuity candidate, and Friedrich Merz, a Merkel rival who has questioned the constitutional guarantee of asylum to all “politically persecuted” and believes Europe’s biggest economy should contribute more to the European Union.

Merkel said in October she would step down as party chief but remain chancellor, an effort to manage her exit after a series of setbacks since her divisive decision in 2015 to keep German borders open to refugees fleeing war in the Middle East.

Merkel, 64, told the CDU congress in Hamburg of her gratitude for the chance to have served as party chief for 18 years, 13 as chancellor in which she came to dominate European politics as its key crisis manager and consensus-builder.

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