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Definition: Merkel from The Macquarie Dictionary

born 1954, German politician; leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany since 2000; became chancellor in 2005.

Summary Article: Merkel, Angela
From The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World

Angela Merkel is Germany's first female chancellor. A Protestant from the former East Germany, she was elected head of state in September 2005 and assumed office on November 22, 2005. She has been the chairwoman of her party, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), since April 10, 2000.

Despite initial skepticism of her ability to lead Germany, she has proven herself a pragmatic and popular politician who was easily reelected in 2009. Her influence extends well beyond Germany; for four years in a row (2006-09), Forbes magazine named her the most powerful woman in the world. This is especially remarkable considering that she entered politics only after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Upbringing and Personal Life

Merkel was born as Angela Dorothea Kasner on July 17, 1954. Her father was a Lutheran pastor and her mother a teacher of English and Latin. She has two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. Like most children growing up in socialist East Germany, she was a member of the official youth movement Free German Youth (FDJ). From 1973 to 1978, she studied physics at the University of Leipzig. She then transferred to the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin, where she obtained a doctorate for her thesis on quantum chemistry in 1986.

Her first marriage (1977-82), to fellow physics student Ulrich Merkel, ended in divorce. Her second and current husband, Joachim Sauer, is a quantum chemist and professor who, for the most part, has stayed outside of the public spotlight. Merkel has no children of her own, but Sauer has two adult sons by a previous marriage.

Political Career

In December 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Merkel got involved in the growing democracy movement in East Germany. She joined the new party Democratic Awakening (Demokratischer Aufbruch) and quickly rose in its ranks, becoming her party's press secretary in February 1990. That August, she joined the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Soon thereafter, in the first postunification elections, she was elected to the German Parliament (Bundestag). As a protégée of then-chancellor Helmut Kohl, she first became Federal Minister for Women and Youth (1991-94), and later Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (1994-98).

Following a financial scandal involving Kohl and other leading figures of the CDU, Merkel publicly broke with her former mentor and advocated for a fresh start. She was subsequently elected the first female chair of her male-dominated, socially conservative party. For the first four years of her reign as chancellor, Merkel led a “grand coalition” with the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). After her reelection in 2009, when her party obtained the largest share of votes, she formed a coalition government with the centrist, pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Merkel is a smart, highly educated and skillful politician who uses her academic background in the sciences to analyze situations and develop strategies that are supported by many. Unlike many politicians, she is not a gifted speaker and not interested in grand gestures. She has, however, been widely praised for modernizing her party, especially in regard to family and migration policies, and for her ability to build coalitions.

See Also:

Germany, Government, Women in, Heads of State, Female, Political Ideologies.

Further Readings
  • Heckel, M So Regiert die Kanzlerin [This Is How the Chancellor Governs]. Munich, Germany: Piper, 2009.
  • Merkel, Angela “Angela Merkel.” (accessed November 2009).
  • Mills, Clifford W Angela Merkel (Modern World Leaders) New York: Chelsea House Publications, 2007.
  • Henderson, Heike
    © SAGE Publications, Inc

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