After a decade and a half, the era of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming to an end. Having chosen not to run in national elections this month, she will become the country’s first premier to leave the power of her own volition.
If negotiations to form a new government drag on after the Sept. 26 vote, she could overtake Helmut Kohl as modern Germany’s longest-serving leader. She is the doyenne of European politics — a generation of young Germans remembers no one else at the helm.
Her admirers have hailed her as everything from the leader of the free world to a contemporary Joan of Arc — grand portrayals she has always spurned. Yet she has been repeatedly named among the world’s most powerful women. President Barack Obama, among her most enduring advocates, described her as an outstanding global political leader.
But she leaves a complicated legacy. Some applaud her humble, consensus-driven political style. Others see a lack of bold leadership, particularly in the face of a more aggressive Russia and rising Chinese power.
In 2015, she opened the door to more than 1 million refugees, mostly from war-battered Syria. But Merkel’s watch has also seen a surge in nationalist sentiment that has propelled the far right into parliament.
While dubbed the “climate chancellor” for her environmental promises, she leaves office with Germany the world’s biggest producer of air-choking brown coal.
Historians will debate her impact for years to come. What is certain: Her departure will leave a vacuum after a political career that has spanned more than three decades, beginning amid the dying gasps of the Cold War.
Read Washington Post’s full story about how Merkel built her legacy