The Latest: Merkel says her party must look to the future

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — The Latest on the election of a successor to Angela Merkel as Christian Democratic Union party leader (all times local):

12:25 p.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has celebrated her 18 years at the helm of Germany’s main center-right party in her final speech as leader, urging members to show unity as it opens a new chapter.

In a speech Friday before the Christian Democratic Union elects a new leader, Merkel recalled that she took office in 2000 when the party was in a deep crisis. She said that “we kept a cool head” and “we showed everyone” by recovering.

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Merkel told a party congress in Hamburg that “our CDU today is different from the year 2000, and that is a good thing.” She said the party must not look to the past but the future.

Her half-hour speech was greeted with a several-minute standing ovation. Some delegates held up placards saying “Thank you, boss!”

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10:25 a.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party is meeting to elect a new leader who could help shape Germany’s political direction for the next generation.

A close ally of Merkel’s and a one-time rival are considered favorites for the job to lead the center-right Christian Democratic Union.

Merkel announced in October she would give up the reins in her party, though she plans to serve her current term as chancellor.

Three high-profile contenders have toured Germany to drum up support.

Friday’s vote pits CDU general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel ally, against Friedrich Merz, a former leader of the party’s parliamentary group who stands for a more conservative approach and has been away from front-line politics for a decade.

Health Minister Jens Spahn, another Merkel critic, is considered the outsider.

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