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

German Chancellor and chairwoman of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Merkel, waves after her farewell speech during a party convent

German Chancellor and chairwoman of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Angela Merkel, waves after her farewell speech during a party convent

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waves after her speech at the party convention of the Christian Democratic Party CDU in Hamburg, Germany, Friday, Dec.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waves after her speech at the party convention of the Christian Democratic Party CDU in Hamburg, Germany, Friday, Dec.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens to applause during her speech at the party convention of the Christian Democratic Party CDU in Hamburg, German

German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens to applause during her speech at the party convention of the Christian Democratic Party CDU in Hamburg, German

Christian Democratic Union, CDU, chairwoman and German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the applause after her speech during a party convention of th

Christian Democratic Union, CDU, chairwoman and German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives the applause after her speech during a party convention of th

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018 file photo Friedrich Merz, former CDU faction leader, left, Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn, center, and

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018 file photo Friedrich Merz, former CDU faction leader, left, Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn, center, and

FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 file photo German Chancellor and party chairwoman Angela Merkel waves during the party convention of the Christia

FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 file photo German Chancellor and party chairwoman Angela Merkel waves during the party convention of the Christia

FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 file photo The governor of German Saarland state and designated CDU Secretary General, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer

FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 file photo The governor of German Saarland state and designated CDU Secretary General, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018 file photo Friedrich Merz, member of the German Christian Democratic Party, addresses the media during a press

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018 file photo Friedrich Merz, member of the German Christian Democratic Party, addresses the media during a press

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 photo German Health Minister Jens Spahn arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin. A

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 photo German Health Minister Jens Spahn arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin. A

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.

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.