The September 2009 elections were a major win for the conservative forces led by Chancellor Merkel, breaking a stalemate and opening the way for more conservative economic policies. Previously since an indecisive election in 2005 the Christian Democrats (CDU: Christlich Demokratische Union) (on the center-right) formed a "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats (SPD: Soziel Demokratische Partei)(on the center-left), headed by Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Now Merkel and her CDU will form a coalition with the libertarian, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP: Freie Demokratische Partei). Left in the cold will be the SPD, the Greens, and the ex-Communists who remain strong in the former East Germany under the name "Left party" (Die Linke). Merkel is now expected to move forward on tax cuts, reform of the tax code, reduction of bureaucracy and a possible extension of the time that nuclear power plants can continue to operate.
The victory enhanced her reputation as Europe's top political power broker, as Merkel became the first leader of a major European country to win reelection since the global financial crisis struck last year. Voters generally approved of her response to the recession, even though it has hammered Germany's export-dependent economy and has resulted in a huge amount of public debt. She countered criticism by blaming the crisis on Wall Street, and engaging in a modest stimulus program.
Angela Dorthea Kasner Merkel was born in Hamburg but three years later he family moved to Templin, Brandenburg in the former German Democratic Republic. Her father, Horst Kasner, was a Protestant Pastor who had studied Theology at Heidelburg University. Her mother, Herlind, was an English and Latin teacher. The Kasner family was increased when Angela's brother Marcus was born in 1957 and her sister Irene in 1964.
Merkel grew up in the former Communist East Germany (DDR) just outside Berlin. Merkel was educated in Templin and at the University of Leipzig, where she studied physics (1973-1978). She worked and studied at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences (1978-1990). After graduating with a doctorate in physics working in quantum chemistry. In 1989 she became involved in the growing democracy movement and, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, she got a job as government spokesperson following the first democratic elections. She joined the CDU two months before German reunification and within three months she was in Helmut Kohl's cabinet as minister for women and youth. In 1994 she was made minister for the environment.
Her East German background has stood her in good stead. For the first 36 years of her life, she honed her skills at covering up or suppressing her feelings -- essential in a society where practically every room contained a Stasi informer, especially if you were a pastor's daughter. Speaking near perfect English and remarking on her background as an Ossi she says, "Anyone who really has something to say doesn't need make-up".
Merkel fears that the European Union (EU) has failed to define its common interests "for the (commercial) battles of the future" now Europe's cold war priorities of keeping "peace and freedom" have been achieved. "This is where I think Europe needs to learn a lot, not to concentrate too much on whether bicycle paths are built the same way in Portugal and north-west Germany."
Domestically, Merkel recognises the need for change in the country's consensual model. "In Germany, we are always facing the danger that we are a little bit too slow. We have to speed up our changes."
- Clifford W. Mills. Angela Merkel (2007), 120pp; for middle schools
- Craig Whitlock, "Germany's Merkel Reelected Easily, Will Form New Coalition," Washington Post Sept. 28, 2009
- Wolfgang Stock: Angela Merkel: eine politische Biographie. Neuauflage. München 2005, ISBN 3-7892-8168-9