Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), delivers a speech at the party conference of CDU in Hamburg, Germany, on Dec. 7, 2018. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union is holding its 31st plenary meeting on Friday and Saturday, when representatives will elect a new party chair to succeed Merkel. (Xinhua/Shan Yuqi)
HAMBURG, Germany, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is holding its 31st plenary meeting on Friday and Saturday, when representatives will elect a new party chair to succeed Merkel.
In recent weeks, the CDU has organized a series of gatherings in various German states, where the candidates had a chance to present their visions to party members.
A total of 1,001 party representatives, among them 658 male and 343 female, will vote on Friday to decide who will take Merkel's seat. The preliminary result will be announced in the afternoon.
German media has dubbed the meeting a "battle to succeed Merkel," who has been the party head for 18 years. She decided not to rerun in late October, after suffering major setbacks in two state elections earlier this year.
Merkel's decision broke a long party tradition that the posts of CDU chair and chancellor are held by the same person.
Local analysts said Merkel's decision was a sign that she wants to withdraw from politics, and her promise to complete her term as chancellor was meant to ensure a smooth transition of power.
Merkel has been CDU chair since 2000 and was elected chancellor in 2005. She was reelected in 2009, 2013 and 2018.
Recent polls conducted by Infratest dimap have shown a close race among the three most popular candidates, General Secretary of CDU Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, lawyer Frederich Merz and health minister Jens Spahn.
Whoever gets elected, the new party chair would face a number of tricky challenges, including finding the right way to cooperate with Merkel, coordinating party strategies and government policies, and coping with the other two governing parties -- the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
The German coalition government has been on shaky ground for several months now due to fierce inner struggles.