Most Influential Women

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6 / 6

No. 1 Angela Merkel

For three years running, Forbes magazine has named German chancellor Angela Merkel as the most powerful woman in the world. As the leader of Europe's largest economy and the world's No. 1 exporter, the honor is richly deserved. The question is, will she keep her job by the end of the year. Merkel, Germany's first woman chancellor after winning office in 2005, heads a grand coalition with the cabinets in government divided equally between her Christian Democrats (CDU) and rival Social Democrats (SPD). Her handling of the financial crisis has come under criticism both in Germany and Europe, putting her re-election prospects into sharp focus. She'll face SPD's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the current foreign minister, in the September Bundestag election. Known for her understated and deliberate approach, Merkel is steering Germany through some difficult times, though her personal popularity has remained mostly unscathed. She has rebuilt the tran-Atlantic ties with the U.S. and established a closer relationship with Israel. She's also taken charge the European Union's foreign policy agenda, advocating a more conciliatory approach with Russia and helping to deny NATO membership for former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia. Merkel's hopes to win a second term as chancellor are greatly enhanced by other under-currents of German politics. The SPD is disintegrating, recently a big loser in the Hesse state election, and the free-market Free Democrats are gaining a lot of steam. If the trend holds, Merkel would be able to form a more manageable center-right coalition with the Free Democrats to push through economic reforms that never got much traction from her current coalition partner. Then her perch as the world's most influential woman will be unchallenged for quite some time.

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