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Merkel calls on women to get more active in politics

October 23, 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the nation's politics were still too male-dominated and needed to keep up with the times.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Merkel, the country's first female chancellor, long avoided casting herself as a feministImage: Jan Woitas/dpa/picture alliance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for women to get more involved in politics, in a broad-ranging interview published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper's weekend edition.  

"We've still not managed to enthuse enough women for politics," Merkel said. "We need to work on women having more confidence overall. Because even when there are women present, it's not like they're the ones wrangling over the party leadership position." 

"I can only urge women to get involved. Only having men, that just doesn't fit with the times anymore," she added.

She noted that if a political party wants to remain a big popular party, or Volkspartei, it should attract more women to its ranks and strive for gender parity.

A rare woman in a male-dominated party

The comments come amid heated debate in Germany this week about gender inequality and sexism following accusations of sexual misconduct at media company Axel Springer and fears that Merkel's exit could result in a dearth of women in the top echelons of German government.

Merkel has long been a rare woman in the top ranks of her conservative, male-dominated Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Merkel, the country's first female chancellor, long avoided casting herself as a feminist, and was slow to support policies pushed by feminists like boardroom quotas for women.

Yet in 2018 she publicly pressed the CDU to attract more women to their ranks.

Leaders hail Merkel's leadership

On Friday, Pope Francis said Merkel would be a role model for many women when it comes to political engagement.

"I consider Angela Merkel's leadership an interesting milestone in world politics and a call to women who feel a political vocation," Francis is quoted as saying by the Argentinian news agency Telam.

Former US President Barack Obama also hailed Merkel's values and ability to navigate global crises. Thanks to Merkel, "the center has held through many storms," Obama said.

Merkel, who did not run again in September parliamentary elections, is due to step down from politics after 16 years at the helm.

And her CDU/CSU conservative bloc suffered a historic defeat in the elections.

Gender parity a point of contention?

Merkel will most likely be succeeded as chancellor by Olaf Scholz, current vice chancellor and the head of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), which won the most votes.

The SPD is currently in talks with the climate-friendly Green Party and the neoliberal Free Democratic Party to form the next government.

Gender parity could become a point of contention as the three parties appear divided over the matter.

Nevertheless, Scholz has announced that he is aiming for gender parity in cabinet under his chancellorship.

Germany after the election: What's next?

For years, the German government had been an all-male affair. And even when women became cabinet ministers, they were largely confined to the portfolios of health and family affairs.

Several federal ministries, including finance, foreign affairs, interior and transport, have never been headed by women.

At the start of her fourth term as chancellor, Merkel appointed nine men and seven women for cabinet positions, making it the most female cabinet in German history.

sri/aw (dpa, Reuters, AFP)