Monday, October 10, 2005

Angela Merkel

Three weeks after Germany's parliamentary elections left the two major parties virtually even in the Bundestag, Angela Merkel has emerged as the new chancellor (as Germany calls its prime minister). Merkel, leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, will head a deeply divided coalition government.

Merkel will also be the first female chancellor in German history. Women have served as prime ministers in the United Kingdom (Margaret Thatcher, 1979-1990), Portugal (Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, 1979-80), Norway (Gro Harlem Brundtland, 1981, 1986-89, 1990-96), Yugoslavia (Milka Planinc, 1982-86), Lithuania (Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene, 1990-91, and Irena Degutiene, 1999), France (Edith Cresson, 1991-92), Poland (Hanna Suchocka, 1992-93), Bulgaria (Reneta Indzhova, 1994-95), Finland (Anneli Tuulikki Jaatteenmaki, 2003), Macedonia (Radmila Sekerinska, 2004), and Ukraine (Yuliya Tymoshenko, 2005). The generally ceremonial role of president has also been occupied by a woman in a number of European states, most notably the Republic of Ireland where Mary McAleese succeeded Mary Robinson, but women in political leadership is still the exception to the rule.