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Hello Angela Merkel

by Saturday Sun Nov 27th, 2005 at 03:24:16 AM EST

From the front page ~ whataboutbob

Today, the Bundestag elected Angela Merkel Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. She received 397 (or 61 % of the) votes. This means that 51 MPs from the grand coalition, most probably from the SPD, did not vote for her. But given the circumstances - a few weeks ago, a large part of the CDU faction denied SPD's Wolfgang Thierse their yes-vote for deputy parliamentary chair - this is an acceptable outcome. The missing votes can hardly be seen as an indication of long-term opposition against Merkel in the SPD faction. After the Müntefering-disaster, the SPD MPs will think twice before opposing any grand coalition decisions which have been made on the leadership level.

Merkel is the 34th chancellor of Germany, the 8th chancellor of the Federal Republic and the first woman to become German chancellor.

Consequently, we can not get around the question: Who is Angela Merkel? - I would like to present some biographical details.


If you are interested: Many of the following (and more) can be found on Wikipedia. It is far from being complete. If you have other things about Merkel's political and personal bigraphy in mind, feel free to comment!

Born July 17 1954 Angela Dorothea Kasner in Hamburg as the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. Her family moved to Templin in Mecklenburg-Pomerania, north of Berlin, because her father received a pastorship there. She went to school in Templin and studied Physics in Leipzig.

From these early biographic data, some explanations for Merkel's behaviour today might be deduced (many discussions in German media about that): First, growing up in a pastor family in the GDR, meant that more caution of state security service (Stasi) than for usual people was necessary, for Stasi usually watched church representatives closely. Her notorious poker face is often being explained with this biographical detail, as is her habit of expressing her opinion only after careful forethought. Second, as a physicist, she is used to systematic thinking and to ideas of agent and reagent. Indeed I think that her overall political style will be a more rational one, compared to the emotional style of Gerhard Schröder.

Merkel worked as a scientist until 1990. In 1989, she got involved with the democratic movement and joined the party Demokratischer Aufbruch and subsequently became spokesperson of the first (and only) democratically elected Government under Lothar de Maizière. In December 1990, she was elected to the first Bundestag of unified Germany. In 1991, after her party had merged with the CDU, she became Minister for Women and Youth in the Kohl government. In 1994, she changed the department and became Minister of the Environment and Reactor Safety - a promotion, since this was not a typical "women department" any more. Nevertheless, the post was not a very high-profiled one in the Kohl government with its pronounced disregard of environmental issues. Kohl used to call her "the girl" ("das Mädchen" - a nickname she works hard to overcome...).

When Kohl was defeated in the 1998 elections, she became secretary-general of the CDU. In the finance scandal which shook the party one year later, Merkel was one of the few people in the party administration with a clean slate (thanks to her East-German biography). While Kohl and his successor Schäuble stumbled across this scandal (the CDU had received several Million Deutschmark from unknown sponsors and had failed to record the donations - leading to the never-disproved suspicion that the Kohl-government was corrupt), Merkel took the chance and distanced herself from Kohl. She became chairwoman in 2000 and was at first regarded as a nice clean cover woman - necessary at the very moment, but after some time had passed, she would be replaced by one of the men with high aspirations. At first, it really looked like that: She conceded the candidature for chancellorship to Edmund Stoiber in 2002. After that, I have to admit, I would have never thought that she would get another chance. I underestimted her, as did everyone else.

When Stoiber lost narrowly, Merkel regained control of the CDU/CSU-union and successfully outrivalled potential inner-party enemies (ask Friedrich Merz) and did not give the aspiring regional government leaders (e.g. Roland Koch from Hessen) the chance to shoot at her. Her only big mistake I can think of was the decision (and, most of all, the way the decision was made) for Paul Kirchhof as designated finance minister. But in this case, she simply seems to have had good luck, winning the elections by just 1 %.

So, Angela Merkel is not only one of the most intellectually capable chancellors this country has ever had, she also seems - as of now - to have the luck on her side. I will not make the same mistake again to underestimate her. Her task will not be easy, both in terms of her chancellorship for Germany and her leadership for the CDU. But I expect her to remain the most powerful woman in Europe for some time to come.

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Great background article. Thanks for putting this together for us. I guess we will just have to see where she leads Germany...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 03:32:34 AM EST
So, Angela Merkel is not only one of the most intellectually capable chancellors this country has ever had, she also seems - as of now - to have the luck on her side.
Another successful physicist-turned-politician is Javier Solana, secretary general of the EU Council of Ministers and High Representative for the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. He used to ba a professor of Solid State Physics (he actually taught my mother Quantum Mechanics before she quit Physics for Literature, but that's another story). Josep Borrell, currently President of the European Parliament, is an Aeronautical Engineer and a doctor in Economics. All three of them are rational, pragmatic, and grew up in the milieu of political opposition to authoritarian regimes.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 05:36:01 AM EST
Sometimes smart people are bad leaders, of course/ they might think they know everything better.

But Merkel doesn´t seem arrogant. I just wonder how she´s going to overcome the internal CDU-CSU divisions.

by koenzel (koen@vanschie.net) on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 06:15:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Solana is a consummate diplomat, but Borrell is quite arrogant.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 06:16:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The best combination to runa country is to be a physicist and know a lot of anthropology.

the physicist part delas wiht the rational choices. anthropology guides you along the human behavour, groups and so-called not-rational schemes

Ei.. wait..this is me!!!! What the hell I am doing here instead of running for office??!?!!!

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 08:22:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You remind me of that magician who used to end his shows by giving himself a huge medal.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 08:30:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am a Magic Andreu in disguise.

I am gonna look for another medal...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 11:28:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The same.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 11:57:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a reminder that Margaret Hilda Thatcher was a chemist who worked for J Lyons developing methods for preserving ice cream. I presume this means she was "used to systematic thinking and to ideas of agent and reagent" Mind you that might not be quite the case; she had studied Chemistry at Oxford where she barely passed, getting a "Desmond" (a class 2.2 degree, usually reserved  for the barely competent who actually attended lectures. Only the incompetent who spent a little time not in an alcoholi fueled haze were awarded a "Douglas" - a Douglas Hurd or Third Class degree)
by Londonbear on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 04:37:38 PM EST


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