Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2015 might be getting accolades on the international stage, but domestically German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 61, faces her lowest domestic approval ratings since the financial crisis as the leader enters her 10th year in office. Time’s announcement Wednesday comes as Germany faces an influx of over 1 million refugees by the year-end and growing domestic unhappiness.
“Not once or twice but three times there has been reason to wonder this year whether Europe could continue to exist, not culturally or geographically but as a historic experiment in ambitious statecraft,” wrote Time Editor Nancy Gibbs, describing Merkel. “You can agree with her or not, but she is not taking the easy road.”
The not-so-easy road has had Merkel facing divisions within her own party as Germany comes under the strain of accepting refugees fleeing conflicts in countries including Syria. Her approval rating, now its lowest in four years, is linked to her firm stance with an open-arms refugee policy. She has faced accusations from German politicians of allowing “uncontrolled immigration” and leading the country as a “careless skier” for allowing an avalanche of people to cross the country’s borders. A partner of Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union party has threatened to take her to court if immigration is not controlled.
“The chancellor has the situation under control and the overall government, too,” Merkel said in an interview with ZDF broadcaster in November. “But we have very special, very challenging times.”
Time also credited Merkel for her role as a European power broker managing debt crises and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was second on this year’s list, followed by U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
I told you @TIME Magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite They picked person who is ruining Germany
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2015
The Black Lives Matter activists, Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani, entrepreneur Travis Kalanick and celebrity and activist Caitlyn Jenner rounded out this year’s list. Last year Time named Ebola fighters as its Person of the ear.