German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for cohesion in its ranks and defended the centrist path for her party, in her last speech as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and before the congress in which her successor will be elected.
"18 years ago, in my first speech as president, I asked to get to the point before a very difficult situation for the party," he said, opening his speech, referring to the scandal of irregular financing that was revealed then in the CDU, under the called "era" Helmut Kohl and to pass the party to the opposition.
It was difficult to "overcome" that situation, he continued, and many years "and many elections later" the challenge now is to "stay united" and "lead united", always from the centrist vocation that characterizes the CDU.
These are moments of strong "social polarization", aggravated by the emergence of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the German parliamentary panorama, recalled Merkel, to highlight then the need to stand out from these channels.
"We do not incite hatred or isolate anyone," "we do not discriminate against anyone," "we do not differentiate between respect for human dignity," he proclaimed, insisting that from the CDU "we stand out from those who do" and "We represent democratic values."
Merkel recalled that its conservative bloc has led Germany for more than fifty years – in reference to the five federal chancellors emerged from its ranks of the country's total of eight – and that the goal now is "to continue leading".
Without expressing clear support for any of the three candidates for her succession, the leader of the party did allude to one of the three – the general secretary, loyal to her line, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer – whom she recalled that the party had achieved in his "Land", the Saar, more than 40% of the votes.
Merkel's speech, which the congress had already received at the opening with a loud ovation, was interrupted by frequent applause, especially when the leader expressed her gratitude to her most faithful collaborators, whose names are not necessarily the best known among the common citizen.
It was a shorter speech than usual-half an hour, compared to the usual 90 minutes-much more emotional than what is characteristic of what she called, ironically, "Merkel's own dryness".
To the 1,001 delegates of the congress, which takes place in Hamburg, it is up to the new full leadership, as well as the presidency, for what is expected to be a pulse between the continuist wing and the turn to the right to which part of the CDU.
Three are the candidates for leadership: Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56 years old and nicknamed AKK, representative of the wing loyal to the Merkel line, while the former head of the parliamentary group Friedrich Merz, 63, and the Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, 38, represent rightist currents.
Merkel's preferences, despite their alleged neutrality, lean towards AKK, while several important names of the party, such as the Speaker of Parliament, Wolfgang Schäuble, support Merz.
It does not rule out that in the congress arise other alternative candidacies, since the statutes of the formation contemplate that possibility, recalled yesterday the executive secretary of the CDU, Klaus Schüler, after the last meeting of the party leadership.
Merkel's speech and turn of interventions around it will follow the presentation of the candidates, the corresponding debate and question time, after which will proceed to the election of the presidency on 17.00 GMT.