Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer waves at members of the Christian Democratic Union after her election as the new leader, next to German Chancellor and outgoing CDU leader Angela Merkel. The politician is a supporter of the German Chancellor's policies and has been often referred to as Mrs Merkel's "protege" or even "Mini Merkel".
A former state premier in Saarland, where she led a three-way coalition, Kramp-Karrenbauer has a reputation for uniting support across the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a talent for striking alliances with other parties.
Merkel, however, recalled that the CDU was in a deep crisis when she took over in 2000, mired in a party financing scandal surrounding ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl. 1001 delegates are electing a successor of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who doesn't run for party chairmanship after more than 18 years at the helm of the party. The choice of leader also has more immediate implications for the future survival of Germany's biggest party, which has been struggling with an identity crisis, as well as Merkel's chances of serving out the rest of her term until 2021.
In a brief, upbeat address before the vote that brought many delegates to their feet, she called on the party to reject the politics of fear as the far-right makes inroads in Germany and Europe.
"The CDU in 2018 must not look back but look forward, with new people. but with the same values", added Merkel, who has said she would remain neutral on her successor as party chief. More generous family leave, an exit from nuclear power and an end to military conscription are among her signature policies.
A third contender, Health Minister Jens Spahn, 38, an outspoken critic of Merkel's 2015 decision to welcome more than one million asylum seekers to Germany, is seen as being in a distant third place.
Merz, 63, who lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002 and is returning to politics after a decade in business, is backed by CDU members exhausted of Merkel's consensual politics. "Merz could be tempted to see his revenge and lunge for power (as soon as next year)". Daniel Kirch, political correspondent at Saarbrücker Zeitung said.
"Angela Merkel is one of the most widely admired and broadly influential statespeople of our time", Harvard President Larry Bacow told The Harvard Gazette.
After being nominated by Chancellor Merkel, AKK was elected as CDU general secretary with a record 98.9% of the vote.
Few observers have dared to predict how the 1,000 delegates - political and party office holders - will vote.
The party has long languished in Merkel's shadow and could well decide to jump ship before 2021 to seek to avert further vote debacles - a move that would nearly certainly trigger new elections. Kirsten Dunz, author of book about Kramp-Karrenbauer said.