The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is preparing to leave office after 16 years as leader of the free world, with an uncertain legacy at home and abroad.
Angela Merkel, 67, has been in power for so long that she has been dubbed Germany’s “eternal chancellor.” Her popularity has remained so strong that she would have easily won a record fifth term if she had wanted to continue in office.
Instead, Merkel will hand over the reins as the first German chancellor to do so entirely of her own volition, leaving a whole generation of voters with no prior knowledge of anyone else in the position.
They claim she provided steady, pragmatic leadership through countless global crises, and that she was a moderate and unifying figure in the process.
Some critics, however, argue that this style of leadership, which was based on reaching the broadest possible consensus, lacked the bold vision necessary to prepare Europe and its leading economy for the coming decade.
Her departure will leave a fractured political landscape in her wake, with the question of who will govern Germany next still up in the air just weeks before the September 26 election.
If she remains in power until the end of her term, she will either equal or surpass Helmut Kohl’s record for the longest tenure of a post-war leader, depending on how long the upcoming coalition negotiations drag on.
Make the right decision.
In recent years, the smart, unflappable Angela Merkel has served as a welcome counter-balance to the big, brash men of global politics, from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin, who have dominated headlines.
Earlier this year, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that large majorities in most Western countries had “confidence in Merkel to do the right thing in international affairs.”
But Merkel’s final days in office have also been marred by the “bitter, dramatic, and terrible” return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan, a disaster for which she shares responsibility as German troops prepare to leave the country.
With her background as a trained quantum chemist who was raised in East Germany behind the Iron Curtain, Merkel has long been in tune with her change-averse electorate, serving as a reliable source of stability.
Several of her major policy shifts have been in response to the wishes of large German majorities, including the phase-out of nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and have attracted a broad new coalition of women and urban voters to the once arch-conservative Christian Democratic Union.
Queen of austerity
Before the coronavirus pandemic, her most audacious move — keeping Germany’s borders open to more than one million asylum seekers in 2015 — appeared to be the one that would define her legacy.
In contrast to this, while many Germans rallied around Merkel’s “We can do it” rallying cry, the move also emboldened an anti-immigrant party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), ushering in a far-right bloc to parliament for the first time since World War II.
As a result of her welcoming stance, hardline leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban accused her of engaging in “moral imperialism.”
In a statement this month, she expressed disappointment that the European Union has not progressed any further toward a unified migration policy in six years.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel once dubbed the “climate chancellor” for her efforts to promote renewable energy, is now facing a mass movement of young activists who claim she has failed to confront the climate crisis, with the country failing to meet its own emissions-reduction targets.
After Germany championed drastic spending cuts in exchange for international bailout loans for debt-ridden countries during the eurozone crisis, she rose to the position of Europe’s de facto leader during the crisis.
Her detractors have dubbed her Europe’s “austerity queen” and caricatured her in Nazi regalia, while her supporters credit her with keeping the currency union together.
German infection levels and death toll have remained lower than those of many European partners, despite the fact that the country has made mistakes during the coronavirus pandemic, including a sluggish vaccine roll-out, in recent years.
Mummy introduces Kohl’s girl
Merkel, the most senior leader of the EU and the G7, began her political career as a contemporary of former President George W. Bush, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and former French President Jacques Chirac when she became Germany’s youngest and first female chancellor in 2005.
Angela Dorothea Kasner was born on July 17, 1954, in the port city of Hamburg, Germany, the daughter of a Lutheran minister and a school teacher. She is the oldest of three daughters.
She and her family were relocated to a small-town parish in the communist East at a time when tens of thousands of people were fleeing in the other direction.
The fact that she was exceptionally gifted in mathematics and Russian has assisted her in maintaining a dialogue with the other veteran on the world stage, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was a KGB officer in Dresden when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
Merkel has retained the surname of her first husband, whom she married in 1977 and divorced five years later. Merkel has two children with him.
Merkel, who was working in a chemistry lab at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, joined a pro-democracy group that would later merge with Kohl’s Christian Democrats.
It was this Protestant from the east whom Kohl dubbed his “girl” who would go on to become the leader of a party that had been dominated by western Catholic patriarchs until then.
As she rose to power, party rivals sneered behind her back and referred to her as “Mutti” (Mummy), but she deftly — some say ruthlessly — eliminated potential rivals.
Merkel has stated that she will not return to politics, despite the fact that her name has appeared on a number of wish lists for key EU and United Nations positions.
On her final trip to Washington in June, she was asked what she was most looking forward to and she replied, “not having to make decisions on a regular basis.” (IANEWS)