Ulrich Merkel (div.)
...From 1977 until their divorce in 1982, Merkel was married to physicist Ulrich Merkel.
...When the Kohl government was defeated in the 1998 general election, Merkel was named Secretary-General of the CDU.
In this position, Merkel
oversaw a string of Christian Democrat election victories in six out of seven regional elections in 1999 alone, breaking the SPD-Green coalition's hold on the Bundesrat, the legislative body representing the states.Following a party financing scandal, which compromised many leading figures of the CDU
(most notably Kohl himself, who refused to reveal the donor of DM 2,000,000 because he had given his word of honour and the then party chairman Wolfgang SchÃ¤uble, Kohl's hand-picked successor, who wasn't cooperative either), Merkel
former mentor, Kohl, and advocated a fresh start for the party without him.She
was elected to replace SchÃ¤uble, becoming the first female chair of her
party, on 10 April 2000.Her
election surprised many observers, as her
personality offered a contrast to the party she
had been chosen to lead; Merkel
is a Protestant, originating from predominantly Protestant northern Germany, while the CDU
is a male-dominated, socially conservative party with deep Catholic roots, and has its strongholds in western and southern Germany.
Following Merkel's election as CDU leader, she
enjoyed considerable popularity among the German population and was favoured by many Germans to become Chancellor Gerhard SchrÃ¶der's challenger in the 2002 election.However
did not receive enough support in her
own party and particularly its sister party (the Bavarian Christian Social Union, or CSU), and was subsequently out-manoeuvred politically by CSU leader Edmund Stoiber, who had had the privilege of challenging SchrÃ¶der
but squandered a large lead in the opinion polls to lose the election by a razor-thin margin.After Stoiber's defeat in 2002, in addition to her role as CDU chairwoman, Merkel became leader of the conservative opposition in the lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag.
Her rival, Friedrich Merz, who had held the post of parliamentary leader prior to the 2002 election, was eased out to make way for Merkel
supported a substantial reform agenda concerning Germany's economic and social system and was considered to be more pro- market (and pro- deregulation) than her
own party (the CDU); she
advocated changes to German labour law, specifically, removing barriers to laying off employees and increasing the allowed number of work hours in a week, arguing that existing laws made the country less competitive because companies cannot easily control labour costs at times when business is slow (see ).Merkel
argued for Germany's nuclear power to be phased out less quickly than the SchrÃ¶der
administration had planned.Merkel
advocated a strong transatlantic partnership and German-American friendship.In the spring of 2003, defying strong public opposition, Merkel came out in favour of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, describing it as "unavoidable" and accusing Chancellor Gerhard SchrÃ¶der of anti-Americanism.
...As a female politician from a centre right party, and a scientist, Merkel has been compared by many in the English as well as the German press to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
...In addition to being the first female German chancellor and the youngest German chancellor ever, Merkel is also the first one from East Germany (although born in Hamburg), the first one born after World War II, and the first one with a background in natural sciences.She
studied physics, her
predecessors law, business and history.
On 1 September 2006, Merkel
was selected as the "World's Most Powerful Woman" by Forbes
, based on media visibility and economic impact.
Candidacy for ChancellorOn 30 May 2005, Merkel won the CDU/CSU nomination as challenger to Chancellor Gerhard SchrÃ¶der of the SPD in the 2005 national elections.
, the CDU/CSU campaign suffered when Merkel
, having made economic competence central to the CDU's platform, confused gross and net income twice during a televised debate.She
regained some momentum after she
announced that she
would appoint Paul Kirchhof, a former judge at the German Constitutional Court and leading fiscal policy expert, as Minister of Finance.Merkel
and the CDU
lost ground after Kirchhof proposed the introduction of a flat tax in Germany, again undermining the party's credibility on economic affairs and convincing many voters that the CDU's platform of deregulation was designed to benefit only the rich.
...Merkel was also criticized for plagiarizing a passage from a speech used by President Ronald Reagan in a 1980 US presidential debate for her own television election duel with Gerhard SchrÃ¶der, the Social Democratic chancellor.
...Neither the SPD-Green coalition nor the CDU/CSU and its preferred coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party, held enough seats to form a majority in the Bundestag, and both SchrÃ¶der and Merkel claimed victory.
A Grand Coalition
between the CDU/CSU and SPD faced the challenge that both parties demanded the chancellorship.However
, after three weeks of negotiations, the two parties reached a deal whereby Merkel would become Chancellor and the SPD would hold 8 of the 16 seats in the cabinet (see  and ).The coalition deal was approved by both parties at party conferences on November 14 (see ).Merkel was elected Chancellor by the majority of delegates (397 to 217) in the newly assembled Bundestag on 22 November but 51 members of the governing coalition voted against her (see ).
Reports had indicated that the Grand Coalition
would pursue a mix of policies, some of which differ from Merkel's political platform as leader of the opposition and candidate for Chancellor.The coalitions intent was to cut public spending whilst increasing VAT (from 16 to 19 percent), social insurance contributions and the top rate of income tax.  Employment protection will no longer cover employees during their first two years in a job, pensions will be frozen and subsidies for first-time home buyers will be scrapped.On foreign policy, Germany will maintain its strong ties with France and eastern European states, particularly Russia, and will support Turkey for one day joining the European Union
it is unlikely Germany will push for a lifting of the EU embargo on arms sales to the People's Republic of China, as Merkel
has repeatedly stated her
opposition to such a move.Merkel
has stated that the main aim of her
government will be to reduce unemployment, and that it is this issue on which her
government will be judged (see ).