She looks familiar now, nearly four years after she became Germany's Chancellor. But Angela Merkel was a pathbreaker: the first woman to lead Western Europe's most populous nation and the first Chancellor who grew up in the old East Germany.
Merkel, 54, remains popular, her steady hand and unruffled temperament winning admirers in Germany and around the world. Still, the economic crisis has hit Germany hard. The world's biggest exporter has been particularly affected by the collapse in world trade. German officials, an eye always on the horrors of inflation, were slow to appreciate that a global stimulus was necessary if the world's economy was not to slump into recession. But Merkel's good sense and her ability to forge partnerships with other leaders means that Germany's voice rarely goes unheard in the world's councils and conclaves.
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