Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was elected Friday the new leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU).
She defeated Friedrich Merz, a one-time Merkel rival who stood for a more decisive break from the longtime chancellor's era, and Health Minister Jens Spahn, was eliminated in the first round of voting.
On one hand, she was stepping down to try and save her party, but on the other, the German chancellor got what she wanted: to pass the baton to her protégé Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
The 56-year-old former prime minister of the state of Saarland was a party favourite and Ms Merkel's choice for succession.
The person who heads the CDU is normally expected to become the next chancellor in Germany, but, first, the woman many see as Merkel Mark II has big problems to fix - namely uniting and breathing new life into a divided old party, at the same time as bringing back CDU voters who've given up on it.
"I'm afraid this means a continued struggle within the party about the right direction to take", says Brzeski to Yahoo Finance. Until she praised her Saarland win hours before the vote in her valedictory speech to the CDU as party leader, Merkel had done nothing to show her support of AKK during the campaign.
Merz, who was the CDU's parliamentary leader until he was pushed out of the job by Merkel in 2002, had sought a spectacular comeback in yesterday's vote after a decade away from front-line politics.
The Social Democrats (SPD), junior partner in Merkel's ruling coalition, congratulated Kramp-Karrenbauer and offered to work constructively with her. But the mother of three also inherits the hard task of ending the CDU's lackluster showing over the past three years in local, regional and national elections, as well as winning back hundreds of thousands of voters.
Merkel announced in October she would give up the reins in her party, though she plans to remain chancellor until her current term ends in 2021. She has moved her party relentlessly to the center, dropping military conscription, accelerating Germany's exit from nuclear energy and introducing benefits such as encouraging fathers to look after their young children.
For years, Merkel's popularity lifted the CDU and its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union.
"I hope we emerge from this party conference well-equipped, motivated and united", Merkel said. In the 2013 election, they won 41.5 percent of the vote and only just fell short of an outright parliamentary majority. The most recent opinion polls put the CDU between 27% and 30%.
"Whether it's the rejection of multilateralism, the return to nationalism, the reduction of global cooperation to deal-making or threatened trade wars. hybrid warfare, destablisation of societies with fake news or the future of our European Union - we Christian Democrats must show in the face of all these challenges what we've got", she warned delegates.
"Now it is time to open a new chapter", Merkel said.
The delegates rose and delivered a lengthy ovation to their long-time leader, with some holding up signs that simply said: "Thanks, boss".