German Chancellor- Angela Merkel
Over the past four years Angela Merkel has had to steer Germany through some difficult times, but remains very popular. She has proved supporters wrong by changing her image, which was feared to hinder her progress to the top.
Partly that is because she spruced up her appearance, wearing bright colours and sporting more stylish hairstyles - but largely it is because few people think it matters.
He says Mrs Merkel, the first chancellor from the former communist east,does not need to rely on charisma to win over voters, because she is a pragmatic politician who inspires confidence.
She has certainly impressed Germans, scoring approval ratings of 60% in the lead-up to the 27 September, 2009 election.
As a Protestant, East German woman, Angela Merkel, 55, broke the leadership mould of the Christian Democrats (CDU), traditionally dominated by Catholic west German men.
She had also been divorced, though she kept her first husband's surname, and, in the "party of the family", had no children.
When he was caught in a slush fund scandal, she was the first former Kohl ally to publicly break with the man who brought her into the cabinet, writing a front-page article calling for his resignation.
It helped put her in pole position when the party felt it needed a new beginning.
However, if her role in the Kohl saga suggests a ruthless streak, she is known more for her pragmatism and ability to compromise.
After being elected in 2005 she entered into coalition with her rivals in the Social Democrats (SPD), including her 2009 election challenger, and foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Many thought the coalition would break apart, but Mrs Merkel managed to hold it together, and in fact take the credit for Germany's emergence from recession, and the deal that kept Opel a going concern.
She has been criticised by some in her own party for an apparent shift to the left. But some analysts believe this is simply pragmatism.
If the exit poll results are confirmed, allowing her to ditch the SPD as a coalition partner in favour of the pro-business FDP, she is likely to resurrect her promised economic reforms, analysts say.
Born in Hamburg, Angela Merkel was only a couple of months old when her father, a Lutheran pastor, was given a parish in a small town in East Germany. She grew up in a rural area outside Berlin in the communist east, and showed a great talent for maths, science and languages. She earned a doctorate in physics but later worked as a chemist at a scientific academy in East Berlin.
She had never been involved in politics but, at the age of 36, she became involved in the burgeoning democracy movement in 1989 and, after the Berlin Wall came down, she got a job as government spokeswoman following the first democratic elections.
She joined the CDU two months before the reunification of Germany and within three months she was in the Kohl cabinet as minister for women and youth. She established herself in the party, rising through the ranks until she was chosen to lead it in 2000 and was elected Germany's first female chancellor in 2005.
She is married to a chemistry professor from Berlin, Joachim Sauer. The couple do not have any children.