Fact File: Angela Merkel

 

The “world’s most powerful woman” first staked her claim to greatness in 1999, with the publication of an open letter in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It called for the Christian Democrats to reject Helmut Kohl, the retired chancellor and her former mentor, and in doing so paved the way for Angela Merkel’s eventual election as party leader.

Despite this early hint at a ruthless streak, Merkel’s subsequent political reputation has rested more on pragmatism than dramatic flair. After winning power in 2005, she successfully negotiated an unlikely coalition with the left-leaning Social Democrats. In 2009, she won a second term, making her one of the longest serving leaders in Europe. Her critics say she bows to popular pressure; her supporters say she is strong enough to compromise.

The eurozone crisis has seen Merkel rise in prominence to become the continent’s most powerful leader, but it has also knocked her party’s popularity at home. In 2012, a humiliating defeat in key local elections was seen as a rejection of her party’s austerity policies, but subsequent polls suggested a quick recovery.

Her nicknames in Europe’s tabloid press are also telling: once referred to dismissively by Kohl as “mein Madchen” (‘my girl’), Merkel became “Mutti” (‘mummy’) during her first term as chancellor and in the wake of the Eurozone crisis, she’s acquired a new nickname: “Frau Nein”.

The Numbers

4 – Merkel’s position on Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People, 2011.US President Barack Obama tops the list, while the Prime Minister is, appropriately, at no. 10. Source: Forbes

66% - Merkel’s personal approval rating in Germany, as of July 2012. Source: Slate

17 – Number of countries around the world with women as head of government or head of state, as of 2012. Source: UN

Further Reading

Profile: Angela Merkel and the talent of seeming ordinary, Andrew Gimson, The Telegraph, 2009

Frau Europa: Angela Merkel’s Moment, Catherine Mayer, Time Magazine, 2010

Interview with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spiegel, 2010

Timeline

1954 – Angela Dorothea Kasner is born in Hamburg, but her family later moves to communist East Germany, where she is raised.

1982 – Angela Merkel’s first marriage to physics student Ulrich Merkel ends in divorce after five years. She decides to keep his surname.

1998 – Merkel marries her second husband, quantum chemist Joachim Sauer.

1999 – Merkel writes an open letter, printed on the front page of the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine calling for the Christian Democrats to reject Helmut Kohl

2005 – Merkel becomes the first female chancellor of Germany and the first former East German to hold the post.

2009 – Bucking the post-financial crisis trend for European leaders to be ousted, Merkel is reelected chancellor.

May 2012 – Hollande’s victory in the French presidential election and a defeat for the Christian Democrats in a key German local election, marks the beginning of a European backlash against Merkel-fronted austerity.

July 2012 – After a regional court outlaws circumcision in Germany, Merkel speaks out in favour of allowing the practice.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there