For women who shun politics and chauvinists who welcome the attitude, there is a role model to prove them wrong, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A week ago she became the country’s third politician to win the post for a third time — the others were men — since World War II. One, Helmut Kohl, was her mentor. She helped end his political career for refusing to own up to misdeeds in a political slush fund scandal.
Publicly, Ms Merkel is unassuming. If she’s witty a la US President Barak Obama or wise-guy swagger a la Russia President Vladimir Putin, it’s a top of top secrets.
Were Merkel to beguile an audience with a story of a hairdresser on a foreign trip, some might suffer heart attacks. Merkel seems to be an epitome of Prussian discipline, some might say, regimentation — plain functional.
German voters didn’t seem to mind all that, at least in the last election. Her Christian Democrats and partner carried 42 per cent of votes.
The runner-up party managed 26 per cent. Also among her peers in the West, Merkel’s in a league of her own: personal approval rating at 70 per cent. No wonder her campaign slogan was a simply “Chancellor.”
Ms Merkel doesn’t have a parliamentary majority to run the country, though. She will have to cobble together what has become as German as a Munich pub: a coalition. If all goes well, she will govern for another four years.
The total will be a year more than former British Prime Ministers’ Tony Blair, 10, and Margaret Thatcher, 11. Who knows, she might tap inner resources she hasn’t had a need to yet—Europe has nowhere to go but up and needs help—and overtake French Francois Mitterrand, 14, and equal Kohl, 16.
Commenting on Merkel’s victory, outgoing US Ambassador to Germany, Philip D. Murphy, was reported in German media saying, “I think it’s a validation of her leadership and her leadership style. I think the German people said ‘we have gone through an extraordinarily turbulent period here and we like what we have got. We like the steady leadership.’
An example of results include a “5.3 per cent unemployment rate, a 5.9 per cent of GDP current-account surplus, and a trade surplus of more than $170 billion,” according to the Jerusalem Post — this when all other major developed nations are crawling in debt and unemployment holes of various depths.
Ms Merkel isn’t the only woman running a country in Europe. Lithuania and Kosovo have presidents. Norway is likely to get a prime minister. Economically, however, these countries aren’t near Germany’s clout. Merkel’s clout in Europe has been evident in the ongoing eurozone economic crisis: live within means.
Women avoid politics for a variety of reasons. Included is the notion it’s a men job. It’s difficult to balance the career and family. (Married Merkel is childless).
It’s a dirty game. Females get traditional women and youth portfolios. Merkel began there, Mr Kohl’s “My girl” condescension and all.
It takes talent and hard work to get the top job of leading a nation. Fifty-nine Merkel, a trained chemist, is no exception.
But when it comes to politics, how many Merkels might-have-been if more women tried?
By CHEGE MBITIRU