Germany profile - Leaders

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Chancellor: Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela MerkelImage source, Getty Images

The Christian Democrat Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, has governed since 2005 in coalition with either the liberal Free Democrats or centre-left Social Democrats, but suffered a setback at the 2017 elections as the populist anti-immigrant Alliance for Germany (AfD) surged into third place.

The AfD exploited social tensions over the arrival of more than a million people from the Middle East, West Asia and Africa after Mrs Merkel offered asylum to refugees fleeing turmoil in Syria in the autumn of 2015.

With the heavily-wounded Social Democrats going into opposition, the chancellor faces the tricky task of assembling a coalition with the Free Democrats and anti-capitalist Greens.

Angela Merkel became leader of the Christian Democratic Union in 2000 after a party funding scandal that tainted her long-time mentor, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

She was born in Hamburg in 1954 but grew up in communist East Germany, where her father was a Protestant clergyman.

The 2008 global economic crisis left Mrs Merkel having to tread a fine line between helping debt-laden eurozone countries in a bid to preserve the common currency, and provoking a potential popular backlash at home against Germany - as the eurozone's richest country - over having to make huge contributions to bailouts.

President: Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Image source, Getty Images

Former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected federal president in February 2017, succeeding Joachim Gauck.

A Social Democrat, Mr Steinmeier enjoyed the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel's "grand coalition" of centre-right and centre-left parties.

In his acceptance speech, he pledged to stand up to the rising trend of xenophobic populism, and promote inter-communal dialogue and democracy.

This became all the more topical in September, when the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany broke through to become the first hard-right party to win seats in parliament since the Second World War.