There was once Margaret Thatcher, who began her premiership on 4 May 1979, following the victory of the Conservative Party in the 1979 general election. Then Hillary Clinton, serving as United States Secretary of State in Obama’s administration, but despite the toughness of these two ladies in the field of politics, Angela Merkel is considered to be the most powerful woman in both Europe and international politics.
Who Is Angela Merkel?
According to the documentary film ‘Making of Merkel’ presented by Andrew Marr of BBC in 2013, Angela Merkel was born Angela Dorothea Kasner, to Herlind Kasner, an English and Latin teacher, and Horst Kasner, a theologian and Lutheran minister. Her father moved the family to Templin, in East Germany, approximately an hour from Berlin, few weeks after her birth.
The clever Angela was proficient in academics, excelled in mathematics, science, and languages. Her parents encouraged her to join the Communist Youth Organization, the free German Youth to follow a career in politics. Even though Angela failed in physics course in high school, she decided to pursue a degree in physics from the University of Leipzig.
While studying at the university, she met fellow physics student Ulrich Merkel during a Russian exchange trip. They got married in 1977 and she graduated the following year with a degree in physics and physical chemistry. That wasn’t enough for Angela, she furthered her academic career and excelled to study at the elite German Academy of Sciences, earning a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry, in 1986.
Angela Merkel at the age of three
Angela worked as a chemist at the Academy of Sciences, as one of the few female researchers, after earning her doctorate. She was convinced that a career in science would protect her from the constraints of the East German regime. In 1982, Angela divorced her husband and married Joachim Sauer, a chemistry professor.
On November 9, 1989, the night the Berlin Wall fell, Merkel went to a sauna and then out for beers as she did every Thursday night. Her decision to stick to her typical routine is an example of her stark contrast to the way most people in Berlin reacted that night. In 1989, Merkel made a move toward a career in politics and joined the center-right activists of the Democratic Awakening party.
Her first job was unpacking boxes of new computers and setting them up for the office. A year later, she became the party’s spokeswoman, and renamed the party the Allianz für Deutschland, or Alliance for Germany. As a female with a doctorate in quantum chemistry, Merkel immediately stood out in the political realm.
Even in her new, more visible role as a spokeswoman, she kept her cropped haircut, baggy skirts, and sandals — and was criticized for it. Her male counterparts were so distracted by her appearance they offered to pay for new and more suitable clothes for her. Merkel’s rise to the top accelerated when she joined the largest party in West Germany, Christlich Demokratische Union.
She was selected for multiple positions by Helmet Kohl, her mentor and the leader of the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU. He appointed her as minister for women and, a few years later, as minister of the environment, where she oversaw controversial topics like nuclear safety. Kohl called her his “Maedchen,” or little girl, up until she publicly called for his resignation in 1999 after he was caught rewarding party funds to his friends.
“One of the things people don’t always understand about her is she’s actually a ruthless political operator,” former chief of staff to the UK Prime Minister Jonathan Powell told the BBC. “The way she dealt with all of her rivals in the CDU was extraordinarily Machiavellian. She would get rid of them in a twitch of an eyebrow.”
Four years later, she was elected as the new chairman of the CDU, making her the first woman to lead a major German political party. She began her campaign against the ruling Social Democrats leader, Gerhard Schröde. During a live television presidential debate, Schröder yelled at her across the stage, saying she should acknowledge that she was a “clear loser.”
She took the opportunity to calmly respond, a strategy she continues to use to undermine her opponents. Voters began to see her as an even-mannered and classy candidate. She became chancellor shortly thereafter. Merkel’s most defining moments stem from her central role in managing the eurozone financial crisis. After other European nations began to reveal that they too had unmanageable debt, Merkel analyzed all possible options before agreeing to a massive bailout.
She was criticized for her slow-moving approach and rigid viewpoints. “People often accuse me of not acting fast enough. That I let things go on too long. For me it’s important I deliberate all options … running through scenarios, and not simply theoretical experiments in my head. “But I also try to live with that decision for a while. I think about it for a whole day, to see how it develops. What it will mean, what people are going to say about it, who’s going to write something about it, who’s going to criticize it,” Angela Merkel.
On her first trip as chancellor to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave her a plush toy dog as a gift after learning she was attacked by a dog in the mid-’90s. At their next meeting, he asked for his black dog, Kony, to be brought into the room. Putin allowed the dog to run around while he sat with his legs widely stretched and a grin on his face. Merkel kept a poker face in front of Putin and later described his behavior as “weakness.”
“He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this,” she reportedly told a group of reporters. Ironically, Putin’s aggressive actions in Ukraine corroborate this point.
Source: The Guardian, Bild.de, and The New Yorker
Angela Merkel and other world politicians
Merkel is credited for being the first chancellor to appreciate and support sports in her nation. The team declared her as the official mascot for the squad and calls her Muttivation, a play on her nickname, Mutti, meaning mommy. “The chancellor’s visit to the German team during the World Cup shows that she takes people and their interests seriously,” said market researcher Manfred Güllner of the Forsa Institute.
Source: The Guardian
Today German Chancellor Angela Merkel still continues her reign as the most powerful woman on the planet for 10 years running, clinching a third four-year term of Europe’s most vibrant economy in December 2014, making her the longest-serving elected EU head of state. She fought off a national recession during the global economic crisis with stimulus packages and government subsidies for companies that cut hours for workers, and she is in the thick of trying to help Greece revive its economy.
She has used her power against ISIS, breaking the post-Nazi-era taboo of direct involvement in military actions by sending arms to Kurdish fighters. In the Russia-Ukraine crisis, she has been engaging in shuttle diplomacy trying to broker a peace deal with Vladimir Putin. There’s only one woman who has a chance of endangering her tenure as No. 1 in 2016 — the world’s No. 2 most powerful woman.
Source: Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/profile/angela-merkel/