How Angela did it?

21/09/2013 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

How did a Protestant pastor’s daughter who once marched in the uniform of East Germany’s communist youth end up leading a conservative, male-dominated Catholic party from West Germany to become the country’s first female chancellor?

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It’s been called the Merkel mystery:

With Angela Merkel favoured to win our national elections, observers are once again puzzling over the reasons for her success.

Is it her doctorate in natural sciences t

hat gives her an edge when it comes to solving problems? Or does the experience of watching the state in which she grew up collapse mean she takes nothing for granted?

One point most pundits can agree on is that almost all of Ms. Merkel’s opponents have underestimated her from the moment Chancellor Helmut Kohl picked her for his first Cabinet just a year after she entered politics.

She didn’t start at a local level. She went straight to the Cabinet table,” said Jacqueline Boysen, her biographer. “Everyone thought this was because she was young, she was a woman, she was from the east and she wasn’t involved with the regime there.

“But things weren’t that simple because she proved that it was a place she was suited for. She found that she was talented and enjoyed politics.”

Ms. Merkel is now widely regarded as Europe’s most powerful leader. Comparisons have been drawn with Catherine the Great, the German-born czarina who ruled Russia in the late 18th century and whose portrait graces the chancellor’s otherwise spartan office.

Both women grew up in the Prussian heartland, northeast of Berlin, displaying a sharp mind from an early age. And both were prepared to be ruthless in their pursuit of political power. While Catherine reputedly had her husband Czar Peter III murdered, Ms. Merkel famously turned on Mr. Kohl, her long-time mentor, after he became embroiled in scandal.

Her election as chancellor in 2005 was the culmination of 16 years of patient toil. It reflects her philosophy, summed up in one of her favourite phrases: “step by step.”

This has been her response to almost all challenges, including the European debt crisis from which Germany was largely spared — one of the reasons Ms. Merkel’s approval ratings remain around 70% after eight years in power.

Some observers have accused Ms. Merkel of having no grand vision. With the exception of her abrupt 2011 decision to phase out nuclear power within a decade, Ms. Merkel has been wary of pursuing major projects.

“I think that Mrs. Merkel doesn’t think that political visions are the task of a chancellor,” said Ralph Bollmann, a correspondent for the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

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“She’s accused of having no convictions and being super-pragmatic. I would say that it’s precisely that pragmatism that’s her biggest conviction.”

To make that point, Ms. Merkel whipped out her party’s traditional slogan — “No experiments

Ms. Merkel has also learned to employ her wry, self-deprecating sense of humour to full effect.

In a discussion with female voters, Ms. Merkel was asked whether she can ever switch off from her job as German leader. “Of course,” she replied. “When I’m stirring a saucepan I don’t say to myself, ’Now the chancellor is stirring a saucepan.”’

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