Germany’s ruling party to elect Merkel’s successor

                          By Ayhan Simsek </p>    <p>BERLIN (AA) - Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) party delegates gathered in Hamburg on Friday to elect Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as party leader.</p>    <p>1,001 delegates will choose between Merkel loyalist Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, her main rival Friedrich Merz, and young conservative politician Jens Spahn.</p>    <p>In her speech ahead of the vote, Kramp-Karrenbauer called on the CDU to be more courageous and self-confident to address the challenges of 21st century, to strengthen the European Union and defend the “rules-based international order.”</p>    <p>Merz, for his part, criticized Merkel’s open door policy for refugees, and called for a “new start” for the CDU, with a new strategy on various political issues. </p>    <p>He pledged to win back voters the CDU has lost to the far-right Alternative for Germany, or the AfD. </p>    <p>Merkel, who led the Christian Democrats for 18 years, announced in October that she will not run for the chair again amid heavy losses of her party in regional elections. </p>    <p>But Merkel underlined that she wanted to remain chancellor until her term ends in 2021.