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Often referred to as Angela Merkel's "protege" and even "Mini Merkel", CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been chosen as the conservative German party's next leader.

Kramp-Karrenbauer has been the CDU's general secretary, in charge of day-to-day political strategy, since February.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, the new chancellor in waiting, is expected to protect Mrs Merkel's legacy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's successor at the helm of Germany's main center-right party sought to consolidate her power on Saturday after a narrow victory, installing a young conservative in a key leadership post in an effort to build bridges with her rivals.

German Chancellor and chairwoman of the German Christian Democratic Union Angela Merkel, is applauded after her farewell speech during a party convention in Hamburg, Germany, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. "And this is the motivation with which I am here and why I run for CDU party leadership", Spahn said. He says the party needs to start "a real change of generations".

Merkel chose to leave the CDU leadership after opinion polls, and a pair of disappointing regional elections this autumn, showed that the party's popularity had hit new lows and calls for her resignation increased.

"What is close to my heart is that in the last parliamentary term of my political career, I'll be able to make a contribution that allows the renewed success of the CDU while maintaining our interests in matters of state", Merkel told delegates.

She shot to national attention when she scored a thumping re-election in 2017, a rare bright spot in a slew of regional poll disappointments for the CDU. Kramp-Karrenbauer said she wants to ensure that the CDU avoids the fate of shrinking center-right parties in France and elsewhere.

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The third candidate, Health Minister Jens Spahn, was eliminated in the first round of voting earlier on Friday.

The protegee's win will come as a relief to Merkel, whose chances of staying on as chancellor until 2021 partly hinge on how well she gets on with the new CDU chair.

"I've read a lot about what I am and who I am - 'mini, ' 'a copy, ' 'simply carrying on the same way, '" she said.

Merkel listed some of those moments and many more in a half-hour farewell speech as leader, telling delegates that 'our CDU today is different from the year 2000, and that is a good thing'.

Accepting a lengthy standing ovation from delegates, many tearful and holding "Thanks, boss" placards aloft, a visibly moved Merkel said the party had won four national elections under her by holding fast to its principles.

Polling at around 30% - down from the 41.5% with which they won the 2013 vote - the party have lost votes to both the far-right Alternative for Germany and the liberal Green Party. But the mother of three also inherits the hard task of ending the CDU's lackluster showing over the past three years in local, regional and national elections, as well as winning back hundreds of thousands of voters.

"Now it is time to open a new chapter", Merkel said.

"Whether it's the rejection of multilateralism, the return to nationalism, the reduction of worldwide cooperation to deal-making or threatened trade wars... hybrid warfare, destabilization of societies with fake news or the future of our European Union - we Christian Democrats must show in the face of all these challenges what we've got", she said.