The world’s most
powerful woman

With opinion polls indicating Angela Merkel is likely to win a fourth term in office, she could go on to become Germany's longest serving Chancellor. RTÉ News takes a look back at her journey so far.


Youthful Promise

A promising student from an early age, Angela Kasner grew up in East Germany, excelling in maths and science subjects. After moving to Leipzig to study physics, she married fellow student Ulrich Merkel in 1977, but they divorced in 1982.


Special Chemistry

Merkel later married chemistry professor Joachim Sauer, who she knew from her postgraduate days. Merkel holds a doctorate in physical chemistry.


Political Awakening

After the peaceful revolution of 1989 which saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, Merkel joined an opposition political movement, Democratic Awakening, which later merged with the Christian Democratic Union, the party she has led for nearly two decades.

16 December 2001

Leader in Waiting

Merkel was elected to the constituency of Stralsund-Rügen-Grimmen in 1990, the first all-German election. She became a protégé of former chancellor Helmut Kohl, who later appointed her minister for women.

21 September 2002

Party People

Merkel took over as leader of the CDU in 2000, but was outmanoeuvred by Edmund Stoiber, head of the CDU sister party the CSU, who secured the right to be the bloc’s candidate for chancellor. Here they share a drink at Oktoberfest days before the election, which Stoiber lost to Gerhard Schröder and the Social Democrats (SPD).

16 September 2005

Decision Time

Three years later, Merkel was confirmed as the bloc’s candidate.

18 September 2005

Close Call

The election was so tight that incumbent chancellor Schröder claimed victory and said he planned to stay in his role, despite Merkel topping the polls.

22 November 2005

Ladies First

However, after weeks of negotiations, it was Merkel who emerged victorious, agreeing a coalition with Schröder’s SPD and the liberal Free Democratic Party, becoming Germany’s first female chancellor.

June 2008

Ploughing Ahead

Merkel and Polish leader Donald Tusk announced plans for the EU to proceed with ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, despite Ireland rejecting it in a referendum. Ireland subsequently passed the treaty, which covered EU reforms, in a second referendum later in the year.

September 2009

Re-election Drive

After securing a major win with ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, Merkel was well poised for re-election.

29 September 2009

Steady As She Goes

Merkel’s CDU was again returned as the largest party, with a gain in seats enabling Merkel to form a government with the support of the CSU and the FDP, dropping the SPD.

October 2010

‘Utterly failed’

In a speech to the youth wing of her party, Merkel said that Germany’s policy of multiculturalism had “utterly failed”.

September 2013

Critics Silenced

Merkel was under pressure following expensive bailouts in Europe, but despite losing ground to the SPD, the CDU remained the largest party, and agreed a new grand coalition.

8 June 2015

Special Relationship

Merkel shared a strong working relationship with former US president Barack Obama. She was the last person he phoned as president.

31 August 2015

Refugees Welcome

After an immigration crisis in the summer of 2015, Merkel signalled a major shift in Germany’s refugee policy, a move which won her international plaudits but attracted criticism at home.

10 September 2015

Selfie Praise

Merkel poses for a selfie with Anas Modamani, a refugee from Syria, after she visited the AWO Refugium Askanierring shelter for migrants and refugees.

17 March 2017

New Era

Merkel’s relationship with US President Donald Trump differs markedly from her relationship with Obama. She has publicly disagreed with him on several key issues, including climate change and North Korea.

September 2017

Another Chapter?

Merkel is strong favourite to secure a fourth term, with a sizeable poll lead over Martin Schulz and the SPD.