Angela Merkel, who made a career of outfoxing powerful male rivals as she led Germany through a 16-year-long period of prosperity, will be leaving office after next month’s parliamentary elections as the country’s first post-war chancellor to retire on her own volition.
Merkel’s calm leadership, longevity in office and towering reputation abroad may have helped to burnish Germany’s image overseas, yet her failure to groom a successor and her efforts to push her conservative Christian Democrats into the political centre have weakened her party at home – possibly dooming the success-spoiled conservatives to the opposition benches after September’s election.
The unflappable trained scientist, who earned a PhD in quantum chemistry in formerly Communist East Germany, has been the epitome of tranquility while steering the EU and the continent’s most important country through a series of major crises – from the 2008 global financial crisis to the Greek debt and Eurozone crises to the 2015 refugee crisis and the United Kingdom’s tortuous “Brexit”. Merkel, who turned 67 last month, also showed plenty of spine in standing up firmly yet politely to former US President Donald Trump in four years of withering attacks on Germany, the EU and NATO.
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