The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) elected the former chief minister of Saarland on Friday to replace Mrs Merkel as party leader.
Her election puts her in pole position to succeed the current German chancellor, who is considered one of Europe’s most influential leaders.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, who is considered a protege of Mrs Merkel, was the candidate favoured by senior figures in the party.
She won the race with 517 votes of the 999 cast by party delegates. Her rival Friedrich Merz won 482 votes.
Her task now is to improve the standing of the CDU, fight to win back voters on the left and the right and work with Ms Merkel as Germany’s Chancellor.
The politician, who led a three-way coalition in Saarland, is known for her ability to unite support across the conservative CDU and for her ability to strike alliances with other parties.
She has been the CDU’s general secretary, in charge of day-to-day political strategy, since February.
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