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By Andy Eckardt and Carlo Angerer
HAMBURG, Germany – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s last speech as leader of her Party met with an 11-minute standing ovation on Friday.
The address marked the beginning of her gradual outcome from both German politics and the world stage. Merkel has led the Conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2000 and has been the chancellor of the country since 2005.
“It’s time to open a new chapter, it was a great pleasure for me, it was an honor,” said Merkel when she finished his speech. Delegates held up signs that read: “Thank you, Boss.”
Merkel, 64, will leave the relay of a successor at the party congress in Hamburg later on Friday.
Angela Merkel after being elected new CDU leader on April 4, 2000. Michael Jung / AFP – Getty Images
Three main candidates replacing her have toured Germany and talked with party members at eight regional conferences the last weeks. Discussions have tended to be friendly and trivial compared to Republican or Democratic primary debates in the United States
German party leaders, including Merkel, have traditionally been selected by backroom agreements and are faced with no competition under the Confirmation Decree on Party Conventions.
But for the first time since 1971, CDU delegates on Friday had the opportunity to elect their new party leader among several candidates.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is generally seen as Merkel’s favorite to replace her, with both politicians representing
The two other candidates have both openly criticized some of the chancellor’s policy earlier.
Jens Spahn, Germany’s 38-year-old health minister, has repeatedly expressed his opposition to Merkel’s door-door migration policy, which resulted in the arrival of nearly a million refugees.
Jens Spahn and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at the CDU Congress in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday. Both hope to replace Angela Merkel as the party leader. FABRIZIO BENSCH / Reuters
And Friedrich Merz, a former legislature who left the policy to work as a corporate jurist, presented himself as a candidate who could withdraw voters from far right populist AfD.
As a result of rising foreigners in Germany, anti-immigration and anti-EU AFD won 13 percent of the votes in the German state of Hesse in October.
“The times today are challenging for our country, for our party, with AFD to the right and a polarization of society,” Merkel warned in her speech.
Merkel also had a message to President Donald Trump explaining that her party must demonstrate its strengths in a time of “growing dismissal of multilateralism” and in times of “reducing international cooperation with the principles of managing agreements.”  Judith Hoerning, a 23-year-old delegate, told NBC News that while Merkel had “shaped the party in a good way,” she thought her decision to go down was “courageous and right because the party needs conversion now.”
Judith Hoerning. Andy Eckardt / NBC News
Germany’s neighbors are already worried that the departure to Europe’s longest service provider may weaken the European Union.
“Still respect for Merkel because she gave stability in Europe at one point when it was rocky, “said Judy Dempsey, a member of nonresident in the Carnegie Europe tank.