Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) party delegates gathered in Hamburg on Friday to elect Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as party leader.
1,001 delegates will choose between Merkel loyalist Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, her main rival Friedrich Merz, and young conservative politician Jens Spahn.
In her speech ahead of the vote, Kramp-Karrenbauer called on the CDU to be more courageous and self-confident to address the challenges of 21st century, to strengthen the European Union and defend the “rules-based international order.”
Merz, for his part, criticized Merkel’s open door policy for refugees, and called for a “new start” for the CDU, with a new strategy on various political issues.
He pledged to win back voters the CDU has lost to the far-right Alternative for Germany, or the AfD.
Merkel, who led the Christian Democrats for 18 years, announced in October that she will not run for the chair again amid heavy losses of her party in regional elections.
But Merkel underlined that she wanted to remain chancellor until her term ends in 2021.