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Is Merkel Thinking of Stepping Down?

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Angela Merkel turns 60 this week and is celebrating the pinnacle of her political career, highly popular and uncontested in office. Still, many in her cabinet and party believe she will step down as chancellor before her current term ends.

Several days ago, a young boy asked Angela Merkel a profound question. The chancellor was on a trip to China and found herself in the central city of Chengdu, where she was visiting a social project that provides assistance to migrant worker families. The German leader had already asked a few questions herself, but it was the children's turn. The boy, in shorts and a T-shirt, wanted to know: "Ms. Chancellor, do you have a happy life?" One person in attendance said that Merkel smiled for a moment, paused for a second and then said, "Yes, I live a happy life."

On July 17, Merkel will turn 60. There will be a party and a speech, both taking place at the Berlin headquarters of her conservative Christian Democratic Union party. Merkel will take pains to ensure that the celebrations aren't too extravagant. She would like the event to seem inconsequential and prefers sparkling wine over Champagne. Regardless, it will still be a momentous day, one likely to draw attention to the fact that Merkel has joined Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl as the most influential chancellors in Germany's postwar history.

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