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Angela Merkel

Merkel, Angela (änˈgĕlä märˈkəl) [key], 1954–, German politician, b. Hamburg as Angela Dorothea Kasner. The daughter of a Lutheran pastor, she grew up in what was then East Germany. She trained as a physicist (Ph.D., Univ. of Leipzig, 1978) and worked (1978–90) as a quantum chemistry researcher at East Berlin's Academy of Sciences. Involved in the 1989 democracy movement, she joined the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and was elected to parliament in 1990. A protégé of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, she served under him as minister for youth and women (1991–94) and the environment (1994–98). After Kohl's defeat in 1998, Merkel became CDU secretary-general and, having distanced herself from her former mentor, she was named party leader in 2000.

In the 2005 elections she led the CDU-CSU coalition to a narrow victory over the Social Democrats. No party, however, secured a workable plurality of seats, forcing the CDU-CSU into coalition with the Social Democrats. Merkel became chancellor, the first woman and the first E German after unification to do so. She remained chancellor after the 2009 elections when the CDU-CSU formed a center-right coalition with the Free Democrats. Her government's response to the effects of the post-2008 downturn in Germany and associated economic crisis in the eurozone in 2009–10 led to a loss of popularity at home and somewhat strained relations at times with European nations, but economic growth and low unemployment in Germany subsequently benefited the CDU-CSU. In 2013 the CDU-CSU won again, but fell short of a majority and again entered into a coalition with the Social Democrats; Merkel remained chancellor.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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