1 of 2
File, Associated Press
FILE - This undated file photo shows then German Women and Youths Minister Angela Merkel, right, next to then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Chancellor Angela Merkel is cautiously rejecting criticism of Germany's current course from longtime leader and conservative icon Helmut Kohl. Kohl, the chancellor's one-time mentor, said in an interview published this week: "I ask myself where Germany stands today and where it wants to go." That was widely seen as criticism of Merkel.

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reclaimed her status as the world's most powerful woman, with Forbes magazine hailing her as the European Union's 'undisputed' leader.

According to the list released Thursday, Merkel bumped U.S. first lady Michelle Obama from the top spot, reclaiming a position she held from 2006 to 2009, despite dropping poll ratings for Merkel at home.

Forbes praised the chancellor as "the head of the one real global economy in Europe" who is seeking to "stabilize EU debt and keep the 17-member euro zone unified."

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert appeared to downplay the listing, saying in a tweet Thursday it was to be taken more lightly than "seriously politically." Merkel herself did not comment.

No. 2 on the Forbes list was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lauded for "advancing U.S. interests and policies overseas and pushing women's issues, development and education to the top of the foreign policy agenda." Michelle Obama dropped to No. 8.

Other top international women making the list are Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at No. 3 and Christine Lagarde, the former French finance minister who now heads the International Monetary Fund, making her debut at No. 9.

The youngest of the power women, coming in at No. 11, is 25-year-old entertainer Lady Gaga, known for her eye-grabbing red carpet fashion and ability to raise money to fight HIV/AIDS.

Merkel's return to the top of the Forbes' women list comes months after she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom with a formal dinner at the White House in June. On Wednesday, the eastern city of Magdeburg bestowed her with a local award for promoting understanding among Europe's various nations.

Yet the string of accolades has done little to stop Merkel's drop in popularity among voters. A poll last week for ARD public broadcaster found that 55 percent of Germans saying they had little confidence in the chancellor.

The feeling in her own Christian Democratic Party is not much better. Merkel's former mentor, ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl, said this week: "I ask myself where Germany stands today and where it wants to go." The blunt comments were widely seen as criticism of Merkel, although he didn't specifically name her.

Merkel has also had to work to rally enough support to pass the latest round of eurozone rescue measures in parliament.

Forbes annually selects women who it believes are "in the middle of Richter-registering events," basing decisions on a variety of factors, ranging from wealth to politics to their impact on society.

Merkel has been heavily involved in efforts to resolve the European debt crisis.

Online: www.forbes.com