At the start of the year set to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel pass the baton to a new generation, her ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) on Friday evening began its annual congress, where it is due to choose a new leader.
Addressing the two-day digital congress via video link, Merkel said in the past 16 years, CDU-led coalition governments faced many crises, including the 2008 global financial crisis, 2010 European debt crisis, and 2015 refugee crisis, but they successfully managed to overcome all of them.
“Today we’re facing the most difficult challenge, a pandemic, a once-in-a-century challenge,” she said, referring to the novel coronavirus crisis.
Merkel said the CDU has always taken responsibility for the state of the county, developed solutions for its problems, and it is again prepared to overcome this latest challenge.
Merkel, 66, who earlier announced that she would leave politics later this year, wished success to the candidates vying for the conservative top seat.
The CDU’s new leader will be elected on Saturday with 1,001 delegates from the party’s regional and local branches casting their vote online.
3 men vying to succeed Merkel
Among the three candidates for the leadership, businessman and lawyer Friedrich Merz continues to enjoy widespread popularity in the party ranks, but he is closely followed by his rivals Armin Laschet and Norbert Roettgen.
A poll this week by public television ARD found that 29% of CDU voters think Merz would be the best person to lead their party, while Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, is supported by 25%.
Roettgen, a CDU lawmaker and foreign policy expert, has also gained more popularity in recent weeks and was backed by the 25% of the voters.
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