German chancellor Angela Merkel has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Her decisive response to Europe’s refugee crisis, one of many emergencies she was forced to face in 2015, won her the accolade. As Time explains:
Leaders are tested only when people don’t want to follow. For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is TIME’s Person of the Year.
In a long profile, the magazine details Merkel’s journey from a daughter of a Lutheran pastor in communist East Germany to the leader of the world’s fourth-largest economy. When Merkel first became chancellor in 2005, she was, as the magazine puts it, “resolutely dull.” Merkel’s cautious, no-nonsense approach to politics has led some young Germans to adopt “to Merkel” as a verb, meaning “to do nothing, make no decisions, issue no statements.” This “blandness” masks an “inconspicuous but ferocious drive,” Time notes
It was Merkel’s steady hand over the global financial turmoil, the euro-zone crisis, and Russian aggression in eastern Europe that cemented her popularity at home. It’s not for nothing that she is sometimes colloquially known as “Mutti,” or mother.
The world also often looks to Merkel for leadership. “Merkel here, Merkel there, Merkel everywhere,” noted Deutsche Welle earlier this year. “Merkel is needed, now more than ever, to put out the world’s fires.” Indeed, Time has dubbed her the “Chancellor of the Free World.”
Even so, Merkel’s approval ratings have been sliding recently. While many countries shut their doors to the refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere en masse, Germany is on pace to take in one million asylum-seekers in 2015 alone, as many refugees as the US has accepted in 10 years. Merkel is undeterred by criticism of what some describe as an “open-door refugee policy,” and she still remains one of the most popular leaders in the West, even after the recent dip.
Merkel is only the fourth woman to be named Time’s Person of the Year (formerly “Man of the Year”). The last was Philippine president Corazon Aquino some 29 years ago.
Time put together a varied shortlist this year, to say the least. Merkel beat out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIL, and presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who took the snub with his usual grace:
Other runners-up include the Black Lives Matter, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, Uber founder Travis Kalanick, and Caitlyn Jenner.