Merkel, Angela

▪ 2006

      On Oct. 10, 2005, three weeks after the German election, it was finally decided that Angela Merkel would be the next chancellor. Merkel was a rarity in German politics. Not only was she a female politician—the first woman in the federal republic's top position—and a leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU, which contests elections with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, CSU), but she was also one of the very few leading parliamentarians who hailed from the former communist eastern part of the country. It was also unusual that because of the CDU/CSU's razor-thin win in the elections, Merkel would be leading a “grand coalition,” sharing the government with the Socialist Democratic Party (SPD).

      Angela Dorothea Kasner was born on July 17, 1954, in Hamburg. She was barely a few months old when her father, a Lutheran pastor, was given a parish in Brandenburg in the German Democratic Republic. Life in East Germany was far from easy for those associated with the church, but Angela Kasner entered the University of Leipzig, graduating with a Ph.D. (1986) in physics. She then worked as a scientist at the Institute for Physical Chemistry of the GDR Academy of Sciences.

      Merkel became active in politics in 1989, joining Demokratischer Aufbruch (DA), a leading pro-democracy group. Following the free elections of March 1990, she became spokeswoman for East Germany's only democratic government. She joined the ranks of the CDU when DA broke up and the faction that supported German reunification and market economics merged with the Christian Democrats. She soon became minister for women and youth in Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government, and by 1994 she had become environment minister.

      Despite her apparently close relationship with Kohl, she was the first of his allies to break with him publicly during the 1999 “slush funds” scandal. Her rise was almost complete by 2000, when she was selected to lead the CDU, but in 2002 she was passed over for the nomination as the centre-right's chancellor candidate in favour of CSU leader Edmund Stoiber.

      Although Merkel was the only former East German in the CDU leadership, she had little electoral appeal in the east, where she was commonly viewed with suspicion. Her popularity ratings throughout 2005 were consistently lower than those of SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's. Her uneasy relationship with voters was aggravated by an apparent unease in the spotlight, and she struggled with difficult relationships with some of the CDU's leading (western) regional politicians, all of which damaged her standing in the party.

      Merkel assumed her new duties on November 22. She was known to be market-oriented, in favour of improving relations with the United States, and opposed to Turkish membership in the European Union. Some observers had labeled her—inaccurately—Germany's Margaret Thatcher, but in order to hold the grand coalition together, keep her party behind her, and push through the reform packages needed to revive the German economy, she might have to demonstrate a degree of determination similar to that of the former British prime minister.

Rosanne Palmer

▪ 2001

      On April 10, 2000, Angela Merkel was elected head of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). She took the job at a critical juncture in the history of the CDU; not only had the party lost power in 1998 after the 16-year incumbency of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, but the party was in tatters as the worst setback in its history, a campaign-finance scandal affecting the topmost echelons of the party, unfolded in late 1999 and early 2000.

      In many ways Merkel seemed an ideal new leader. She was born Angela Dorothea Kasner on July 17, 1954, in Hamburg, West Germany, but moved with her family to East Germany so that her father, a Protestant pastor, could work in his native Brandenburg. She completed a doctorate in physics in Leipzig in 1978, moved to East Berlin, and accepted a job in the Academy of Sciences as a quantum chemist. She joined the democratic opposition in East Germany, called the Democratic Breakthrough, and became its press secretary in February 1990. She moved to the CDU the following August and was elected with a direct mandate (as opposed to party list mandate) as a Bundestag (lower house of parliament) deputy in December of that year. Kohl quickly recognized her political skill and made her minister of family affairs, senior citizens, women, and youth (1991–94) and minister of environment, conservation, and reactor safety (1994–98).

      Merkel's visibility and popularity with the German public rose quickly. She distanced herself from Kohl—a one-time patron, who had dubbed her fondly “das Mädchen” (“that girl”)—by writing a newspaper article in 1999 calling for an investigation into the party financing scandal. She led the charge of CDU members who begged Kohl to do right by his party by naming names to end the scandal and begin the healing process.

      Still, Merkel's political jockeying earned her enemies among Kohl loyalists in the CDU. She was controversial in other ways as well—not only was she the first woman to serve as CDU head, she was also the first non-Catholic, a divorcée (and remarried earlier in 2000 to Joachim Sauer, a scientist), the first CDU leader from the former East Germany, and the first from the party's liberal wing, which proved particularly problematic for the CDU's sister party in Bavaria, the ultraconservative Christian Social Union.

      Merkel's dual challenge was to overcome the CDU scandal and to unite the party behind her. She suffered a major defeat in mid-July when her party failed to stop a tax-reform law in the Bundesrat (upper house of parliament). The bill passed after three CDU-led German states succumbed to the majority Social Democratic–Green Party coalition. After the vote Merkel, known for her poker face and nerves of steel, offered the following comment: “This is the first and last time this will happen to me.” Many pundits believed her. By year's end Merkel was still struggling to find a foothold and soothe party infighting.

Suzanne M. Crow

* * *

▪ chancellor of Germany
née  Angela Dorothea Kasner 
born July 17, 1954, Hamburg, West Germany
 
 German politician, who became the first female chancellor of Germany in 2005.

      As a young child, Merkel moved with her family to East Germany so that her father, a Protestant pastor, could work in his native Brandenburg. After earning a doctorate in physics at the University of Leipzig in 1978, she settled in East Berlin, where she worked at the Academy of Sciences as a quantum chemist. In 1989 she became involved in the democracy movement, and in 1990, shortly before Germany's reunification, she became a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Elected as a Bundestag (lower house of parliament) deputy later that year, she became noted for her political skill. Chancellor Helmut Kohl (Kohl, Helmut) made her minister of family affairs, senior citizens, women, and youth (1991–94) and minister of environment, conservation, and reactor safety (1994–98).

      In 1998 Kohl and the CDU lost the elections to Gerhard Schröder (Schröder, Gerhard) and the Social Democratic Party. The following year a finance scandal hit the CDU, and Merkel became a vocal detractor of Kohl, her one-time mentor. Merkel's stance greatly increased her visibility and popularity with the German public, although it upset Kohl loyalists. In 2000 Merkel was elected head of the CDU, becoming the first woman and the first non-Catholic to lead the party. She was also the first CDU leader to come from the party's liberal wing, which was particularly problematic for the CDU's sister party in Bavaria, the ultraconservative Christian Social Union (CSU).

      As CDU leader, Merkel faced the lingering effects of the finance scandal and a divided party. In 2002 she ceded the nomination for the general election to Edmund Stoiber (Stoiber, Edmund) of the CSU, who later lost to Schröder. Merkel received the party's nomination for the 2005 election, and among her campaign promises were reforms to the country's ailing economy and improved relations with the United States, which had become strained by Schröder's opposition to the Iraq War. The CDU and CSU won the general election but failed to capture a majority. After several weeks of talks, a deal was reached that gave Merkel the chancellorship in a coalition government. She took office on November 22, 2005, becoming not only the first woman to hold the office but also the first East German.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Merkel, Angela —  (1954–) German chancellor (2005–) …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Angela Dorothea Kasner — Angela Merkel (2008) Angela Dorothea Merkel (geborene Kasner; * 17. Juli 1954 in Hamburg) ist eine deutsche Politikerin. Seit dem 22. November 2005 ist sie deutsche Bundeskanzlerin und seit April 2000 Bundesvorsitzende der CDU. Von 1990 bis 1994… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Angela Dorothea Merkel — Angela Merkel (2008) Angela Dorothea Merkel (geborene Kasner; * 17. Juli 1954 in Hamburg) ist eine deutsche Politikerin. Seit dem 22. November 2005 ist sie deutsche Bundeskanzlerin und seit April 2000 Bundesvorsitzende der CDU. Von 1990 bis 1994… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Angela Kasner — Angela Merkel (2008) Angela Dorothea Merkel (geborene Kasner; * 17. Juli 1954 in Hamburg) ist eine deutsche Politikerin. Seit dem 22. November 2005 ist sie deutsche Bundeskanzlerin und seit April 2000 Bundesvorsitzende der CDU. Von 1990 bis 1994… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Angela Merkel — (2010) Merkels Unterschrift …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Angela Merkel — Chancellor of Germany Incumbent Assumed office 22 November 2005 President …   Wikipedia

  • Angela Dorothea Merkel — Angela Merkel Pour les articles homonymes, voir Merkel (homonymie). Angela Merkel …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Angela Merckel — Angela Merkel Pour les articles homonymes, voir Merkel (homonymie). Angela Merkel …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Merkel — Angela Merkel Pour les articles homonymes, voir Merkel (homonymie). Angela Merkel …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Angela Merkel — Merkel 2010. Canciller de Alemania …   Wikipedia Español

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.