Constitutional court begins election deliberations

9th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

9 August 2005, KARLSRUHE, GERMANY - Judges on Germany's highest court expressed differing views Tuesday as they began deliberations over whether planned early elections called by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are constitutional.

9 August 2005

KARLSRUHE, GERMANY - Judges on Germany's highest court expressed differing views Tuesday as they began deliberations over whether planned early elections called by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are constitutional.

Judge Udo di Fabio said it would be difficult for the Federal Constitutional Court to determine whether Schroeder really lacked a majority - which is what the German leader has argued.

"Should the court start collecting evidence?" asked di Fabio.

But Judge Hans-Joachim Jentsch expressed skepticism over Schroeder's position and said governing with a slim majority was "politics as usual".

Schroeder has a three-vote majority in parliament's lower house, the Bundestag, but anger over reforms among leftists in his own Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens ally have made this majority unstable, the Chancellor says.

A further complication for the government is that the opposition conservatives dominate parliament's upper house, the Bundesrat.

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is expected to issue its ruling late this month or in early September - meaning the decision will come just weeks before German general elections scheduled for September 18.

Most observers expect the court to allow voting to go ahead but judges in Karlsruhe have in the past handed down surprise rulings against the Schroeder government.

Two members of parliament have lodged complaints with the court which argue that early elections are unconstitutional because Schroeder still has his Bundestag majority.

One of the deputies, Werner Schulz of the Greens, said at the very most it could only be suspected that at some point the government would fail to muster enough votes in the Bundestag. This, he argues, is not enough to merit early elections.

Schroeder, who made the surprise call for elections after a bitter regional defeat for his SPD in May, badly trails conservative challenger Angela Merkel in all opinion polls.

But growing support for a leftist alliance linking the revamped former East German communists with a smaller western German movement may prevent Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) from winning a majority with the smaller Free Democrats (FDP).

This could force a grand coalition of the CDU/CSU with Schroeder's SPD, analysts say.

Three key ministers in Schroeder's cabinet recently expressed support for a grand coalition. An angry Chancellor on Monday demanded they halt debate over a possible link-up with the CDU/CSU.

An alliance of Schroeder's present SPD-Greens coalition with the leftists would also be close to holding a majority, polls show. But the Chancellor and SPD leaders have ruled out such a government.

DPA

Subject: German news

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