Forbes’ Most Powerful List Has Obama Top Again

Forbes‘ “Most Powerful” list is back for 2012, with President Barack Obama again topping the rankings of the most powerful people on the planet.

As leader of the nation with the richest economy and most powerful military, Obama is a safe choice for the number one spot, as he was in 2011. Angela Merkel (second), Vladimir Putin (third), and Pope Benedict XVI (fifth) are all justifiable entries.

But there are still controversial choices to be found in the latest edition of Forbes‘ Most Powerful list. A Mexican drug baron appears (Joaquin Guzman Loera, ranked 63rd) as does the fresh-faced young leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

There are several notable absentees on the list also including last year’s No. 2, Chinese President Hu Jintao. He has been dropped from the rankings altogether as he is currently making his way out of office.

President Obama tops the Forbes Most Powerful list for the second year running. Although Obama faces numerous serious challenges over the coming year, his strong election performance meant his top position was never threatened. And, as Forbes wrote:

“Obama remains the commander in chief of the world’s greatest military and head of the sole economic and cultural superpower – literally the leader of the free world.”

In second place, German chancellor Angela Merkel is one of only six women from the 71 names featured (Forbes chose 71 because it wanted to rank one heavyweight for every 100 million of the world’s 7.1 billion people). Forbes described Merkel as the “backbone” of the 27-country European Union and the individual who holds most sway over the future of the euro currency.

Third place went to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Bill Gates was the highest non-politician in fourth place overall.

The inclusion of Kim Jong-un and other unsavory figures may cause eyebrows to be raised, but there’s little doubt the young North Korean dictator holds considerable influence over US and Chinese policy in south-east Asia.

In compiling the list, Forbes said it used four criteria: power over lots of people, whether that person actively uses their power, whether the person has power in various spheres of life, and financial resources controlled.

Here’s the top 20 on the Forbes Most Powerful list:

1. Barack Obama, President of the United States
2. Angela Merkel, German Chancellor
3. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia
4. Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
5. Pope Benedict XVI
6. Ben Bernanke, Chairman, Federal Reserve
7. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia
8. Mario Draghi, President of European Central Bank
9. Xi Jinping, General Secretary, Chinese Communist Party
10. David Cameron, UK Prime Minister
11. Carlos Slim Helu & family, Honorary Chairman, América Móvil
12. Sonia Gandhi, President, Indian National Congress
13. Li Keqiang, Vice Premier, China
14. Francois Hollande, President of France
15. Warren Buffett, CEO
16. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, New York City
17. Michael Duke, Wal-Mart CEO
18. Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil
19. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
20. Sergey Brin, Cofounder, Director Of Special Projects