PARIS: AFP journalists have chosen Angela Merkel as the most influential figure of 2015 after the German chancellor stamped her mark on the European migrant and Greek financial crises.
The vote by editorial staff from all services and languages across the world put Russian President Vladimir Putin as number two on a list of people who most influenced world affairs over the year.
Putin had the top spot in the agency’s 2014 vote.
Here are this year’s top 10:
ANGELA MERKEL—The chancellor’s open-door policy brought around a million refugees to Germany over 2015. The flood of migrants, a consequence of the devastating war in Syria, was the biggest in Europe since World War II and put the continent under huge strain, exposing its fault lines.
For hopeful Syrian and Afghan refugees she was “Mama Merkel”; some of her European counterparts and party colleagues were less welcoming, even openly critical.
Merkel’s authority as the de facto leader of Europe was also on display during Greece’s protracted financial saga, when she stood firm as the country’s far-left government pushed back against austerity measures intended to save its economy and place in Europe.
Merkel was also voted Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
VLADIMIR PUTIN—He was shunned by world leaders and put under sanctions for Russia’s role in the 2014 standoff in Ukraine. But Putin was still able to impose himself on this year’s most pressing problems, returning to the diplomatic center stage over the Syrian conflict.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad owes his political survival to Putin’s military backing, and the two allies have made themselves indispensable to efforts to end the four-year war that only started taking shape late this year.
POPE FRANCIS—From the US-Cuba reconciliation to progress toward peace in Colombia, the Argentinian pope continues to influence the weighty issues of his home region. He also remained active more globally, for example with a courageous visit to volatile Central Africa, while pursuing his drive to modernize and open up the Catholic Church.
PARISIANS—They were 1.5 million to take to the streets of the French capital after the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a kosher supermarket that left 17 people dead.
Paris was hit again before the year was out when jihadists linked to the Islamic State group mowed down 130 people in cafes and the Bataclan concert hall, venues emblematic of the city’s way of life and now of resistance to terrorism.
ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI—While Baghdadi remained largely invisible over the year, the Islamic State group that he heads extended its murderous campaign beyond the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, growing its presence in Libya and claiming the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt.
AUNG SAN SUU KYI—After a near 30-year struggle with a stubborn junta for democracy, “The Lady” stands on the threshold of power in Myanmar following her party’s landslide win in November’s legislative elections.
DONALD TRUMP—Just a few weeks out from the primaries, the conservative and provocative businessman seems unshakeable from the top of the Republican polls and could well find himself opposite Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential elections.
ALEXIS TSIPRAS and YANIS VAROUFAKIS—The Greek prime minister and his former finance minister symbolized resistance to the austerity policies prescribed for Greece as a cure for years of disastrous financial mismanagement. Even if Tsipras had to back down from key electoral pledges, his Syriza party became a model for Europe’s far left, today represented by Spain’s Podemos.
SEPP BLATTER—This year world football has been hitting headlines for all the wrong reasons, with the FIFA corruption scandal and its powerful president overshadowing any sporting fixture or achievement by far.