German Chancellor calls for early elections

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Following a defeat for his Social Democratic Party in state elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen, which ended 39 years of SPD control of the state, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has called for early federal elections. This is a highly unusual move, to say the least, and raises constitutional questions; it was last carried out by Helmut Kohl in 1982 by getting his MPs to vote against him in a vote of no confidence and using that to allow him to call for the elections ahead of schedule. The German supreme court didn't look favorably at the move at the time. (Analysis.)

I don't think anyone can characterize this as anything short of a gamble on Schroeder's part. A series SPD state governments have been defeated over recent months and years, this most recent in a state they had controlled for close to four decades, and the national government is lagging behind in the polls. The economy isn't in the best of shape, with massive unemployment, which doesn't do the Government any good. Indications are that Schroeder would lose the elections he's calling for. SPD delegates quoted in the analysis didn't sound overly optimistic.

Had he waited, though, would things have gotten worse for Schroeder? Does calling the elections now give his coalition a better chance of victory than if the elections had been held on schedule?

Calling for them now has had one advantage: it caught the opposition off guard as much as his own party. The Christian Democratic Union, Germany's leading conservative party, and the Christian Social Union, their Bavarian partners, haven't resolved their differences over who should challenge Schroeder for the chancellorship. In the last election, Bavarian Minister-President Edmund Stoiber was the CDU/CSU candidate, and he lost. Stoiber has given signs that he'd like to try again, which the CDU isn't happy about. The CDU at large would rather run their leader in the Bundestag, Angela Merkel, against Schroeder. Stoiber can't become Chancellor without the CDU behind him, and the CDU can't risk alienating the CSU (they're allied, but they're different parties). Merkel and Stoiber differ politically, as well; their expressed opinions prior to the invasion of Iraq stand out in my mind, but perhaps someone who pays attention to German politics could better illustrate them.

Anyway, they thought they still had time to resolve their differences and decide on common plan. Now they have to resolve them more quickly than they had planned. This could spell trouble as they scramble to put together a plan for this election.

So, opinions? Comments? Anybody actually care?

EternalParadox

Retired Moderator

EternalParadox

.:Enigma Mod:.

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Conservatism does seem to experience a strong upsurge in Europe, not just Germany. Schroeder is indeed taking a big risk, and I'm not sure if this gamble will pay off. Personally, I don't myself see an early election, but then again, you never know. Your point about the unresolved differences in the Opposition is very relevant, though I do think they can mount a sizable opposition to an early election in order to further weaken Schroeder's position before the election.

Just my not-so-much-into-German-politics view of things.

EternalParadox
Previously the Forum, Vector Art, and Policy Moderator

  • May 23, 2005

BorisGrishenko

BorisGrishenko

send spike

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This is great. I have been hoping for an upwards turn for Germany for years. Being rid of the SPD control is a great step in the right direction.

I am invincible!

  • May 23, 2005

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