Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 95 E300
Location: Inside my head
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 392 Post(s)
Touching the third rail
How are EU democracies going to pay their huge bill for socialism with a shrinking workforce and lackluster economies? Shroeder tried and got fried. Who's next?
Germany 'set for early election'
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says he wants a general election this autumn - a year early - after his party lost a key powerbase in local polls.
Mr Schroeder made the announcement after his Social Democrats (SPD) lost the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which they had held for 39 years.
"The political support for our reforms to continue has been called into question," Mr Schroeder said.
The opposition had focused on the huge unemployment in the German state.
With five million unemployed across Germany as a whole, the general election may turn on the same issue, says the BBC's Ray Furlong in Berlin.
The SPD is also lagging behind in national polls.
Mr Schroeder's Social Democrat-led government not only lost its traditional powerbase on Sunday, but it now has so few seats in the Bundesrat upper house of parliament that its ability to actively govern is massively diminished, our correspondent says.
The SPD showing in North Rhine-Westphalia - Germany's most populous state - was far worse than had been expected, observers say.
Exit polls carried by state television channels ZDF and ARD showed the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) comfortably ahead with 45% of the vote. The SPD trailed with 37.5%.
The loss, which was accepted by all sides even before the official result, means the end of the last coalition of Social Democrats and Greens at regional level.
Calling it "a bitter election result", Chancellor Schroeder told reporters: "I see it as my responsibility and duty as German chancellor to persuade the President [Horst Koehler]... to call new elections for the [lower house] Bundestag as quickly as possible, realistically by autumn 2005."
A jubilant CDU leader Angela Merkel said the voters had given her party "a sensational result".
Ms Merkel is likely to challenge Mr Schroeder and she may now have a good chance to become Germany's first female chancellor as her party also enjoys a strong lead in national opinion polls, our correspondent says.
Some 13 million people were eligible to vote in Germany's most industrialised state.
North Rhine-Westphalia includes the Ruhr Valley, known for its coal and steel production.
Its economy and population are bigger than many independent European countries, and its GDP is higher than that of Brazil or Russia.
But, of Germany's five million unemployed, more than one million live in North Rhine-Westphalia.
For nearly four decades, the Social Democrats have ruled there, benefiting from the solid working-class electorate.