Merkel: From aus­ter­ity queen to ‘leader of the free world’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A pas­tor’s daugh­ter raised be­hind the Iron Cur­tain, Ger­many’s An­gela Merkel has de­fied pre­dic­tions to be­come Europe’s most pow­er­ful politi­cian and, some ar­gue, the new “leader of the free world”. As the West is badly shaken by Don­ald Trump’s White House win, the Brexit vote and the rise of shrill pop­ulism, many see the prag­matic, no-non­sense chan­cel­lor as the last voice of rea­son on a chaotic global stage. The un­ruf­fled, some say bland, style of the trained physi­cist has seen Merkel, 62, lead Europe’s top econ­omy through the storms of the eu­ro­zone cri­sis, ten­sions with Rus­sia and a his­toric refugee in­flux.

Dur­ing her marathon 11 years in power she has seen world lead­ers come and go, in­clud­ing Ge­orge W. Bush, Tony Blair, David Cameron, Jac­ques Chirac, and soon Barack Obama and Fran­cois Hol­lande. Next year she will seek an­other four-year term in of­fice. Once de­rided as Europe’s “aus­ter­ity queen”, she re­cently earned ku­dos when she re­minded Trump that co­op­er­a­tion must be based on “democ­racy, free­dom and re­spect for the law and the dig­nity of man”.

In­ter­na­tional news­pa­pers de­clared Merkel the new torch-bearer of lib­eral democ­racy, and out­go­ing US Pres­i­dent Obama called her his clos­est part­ner say­ing: “If I were Ger­man and I had a vote, I might sup­port her.” In a sig­na­ture show of mod­esty, Merkel waved off the many ac­co­lades as “grotesque and ab­surd”. Days later, she told her cen­tre-right CDU party she was up to the chal­lenge of run­ning again, declar­ing du­ti­fully that “many peo­ple would not be very un­der­stand­ing if I failed to use all of my ex­pe­ri­ence to do my duty for Ger­many”.

Be­hind the Wall

With a doc­tor­ate in quan­tum chem­istry, Merkel is known for a me­thod­i­cal ap­proach to prob­lem-solv­ing, rather than for soar­ing or­a­tory or big-vi­sion state­ments. Seem­ingly de­void of van­ity and in­dif­fer­ent to the trap­pings of power, she lives in a Berlin flat with her me­dia-shy sci­en­tist hus­band Joachim Sauer, shops in a lo­cal su­per­mar­ket and spends hol­i­days hik­ing in the Alps. Ger­mans seem to like it that way, given how past ide­o­logues have plunged the coun­try into catas­tro­phe, and have re-elected “Mutti” (Mummy) twice since 2005. Merkel was born An­gela Dorothea Kas­ner in 1954 in the port city of Ham­burg.

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