Schroeder bids for early pollwith no-confidence vote

30th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

30 June 2005, BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will Friday ask members of his Social Democrats and Greens coalition ally to vote against the government in a no-confidence motion aimed at forcing early German elections in September.

30 June 2005

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will Friday ask members of his Social Democrats and Greens coalition ally to vote against the government in a no-confidence motion aimed at forcing early German elections in September.

Schroeder says he personally will abstain in the Bundestag lower chamber vote aimed at toppling his own government and Social Democratic Party (SPD) chief Franz Muentefering has requested all SPD members to do the same.

The German leader called for early elections - instead of waiting until a planned national vote in autumn 2006 - after the SPD was thrashed in regional polls and forced out of power in the core industrial state of North Rhine-Westphalia on May 22.

Following Friday's expected vote of no confidence, Schroeder will formally request that early elections be called by German Federal President Horst Koehler.

Koehler has 21 days to make his decision. If he approves, new elections must then be held within 60 days.

But there are a number of wild cards in the deck.

Legal experts are split on whether Schroeder should be able to essentially rig a vote of no confidence to get new elections. This was done in 1982 by Helmut Kohl, but Germany's highest court has set tough restrictions on such moves.

Koehler could reject new elections on legal grounds even though most observers do not expect such a move given that all major parties want an early vote.

A more difficult hurdle could be posed by lawsuits planned by smaller parties which oppose early elections because they say their resources are too small to allow them to mount a campaign swiftly enough.

Greens member Werner Schulz - a former East German dissident - also vows legal moves against Schroeder in the high court.

Schulz says the chancellor should either stay in power until the regular 2006 elections or else resign and let another SPD member of parliament seek election as German leader.

Given such legal challenges it appears all but certain that the Constitutional Court will have the final say over elections, meaning there could be a serious question mark hanging over the vote until even late August.

Both the government and opposition want elections to take place on September 18 after all German school holidays are over.

While some analysts have criticized Schroeder's bid for early elections, most newspapers in Germany have welcomed the move.

"The chancellor has made a decision against his own power for the good of the nation," said a front page commentary in the heavyweight weekly Die Zeit.

Schroeder's chances of winning a third term appear slim as his government battles unemployment of over 11 per cent. After first being elected in 1998, Schroeder vowed to cut the number of jobless, then 3.97 million, by 50 per cent within four years.

Instead, the unemployment rate has surged and there are now 4.7 million people without jobs.

Polls show Schroeder's ruling SPD-Greens alliance is badly trailing the opposition conservative bloc with its chancellor candidate Angela Merkel.

A weekly Stern magazine/RTL TV poll released Wednesday gave Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) and its Free Democratic Party (FDP) ally 53 per cent, compared with 33 per cent for Schroeder's SPD-Greens government.

A newly founded leftist bloc comprised of former East Germany's revamped communists - the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) - and the Election Alternative for Jobs and Social Justice (WASG) is at 11 per cent, the poll showed.

One scenario now being raised is that the PDS/WASG bloc may win so many votes that it hinders all possible coalitions other than a marriage of Schroeder's and Merkel's parties.

Such an awkward alliance ruled Germany from 1966 to 1969 - but both Schroeder and Merkel vow they would not enter into such a government.

DPA

Subject: German news

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