Berlin, December 7: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has bowed out as leader of her Christian Democrats (CDU) 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 leader.
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.
"It has been a great pleasure for me, it has been an honour," she said to a standing ovation lasting nearly 10 minutes, and fighting to hold back tears.
Outlining the multiple challenges facing Germany, from rapidly changing technology to climate change and a global shift away from multilateralism to defending national interests,
She said, "In times like these, we will defend our liberal views, our way of life, both at home and abroad. The CDU in 2018 must not look back but look forward, with new people … but with the same values."
Merkel has said in the past she would remain neutral on her successor as party chief.