Following is a profile of Angela Merkel, chancellor candidate of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Merkel was born in the western port city of Hamburg on July 17, 1954. Six weeks after she was born, her father received a pastorship at a church and moved the family to the East German town of Templin, some 80 km from Berlin.
Merkel grew up and got her early education in Templin before she went to the University of Leipzig, where she studied physics during 1973-1978.
She joined in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl in late 1980s and Kohl plucked her from obscurity after German reunification in 1990, making her a cabinet member as minister for women and youth.
In 1994, she was appointed as Minister for the Environment and Reactor Safety.
In 1998, when Kohl was defeated in the elections, Merkel became Secretary-General of the CDU. She took the helm of the CDU in 2000 and has led the party ever since.
Merkel vows to shake up Germany's generous welfare state, strip down its cumbersome bureaucracy and restore ties with Washington that were strained by incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's vocal opposition to the US-led war on Iraq.
Merkel has been compared to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher because both are female politicians from center-right parties and she has been referred to as "Iron Lady" or "Iron Girl".
She is married to Joachim Sauer, a chemistry professor from Berlin. The couple have no children.