President Horst Köhler, Germany's head of state, has just announced his approval for national elections in Germany, based on Chancellor Schroeder's lost vote of confidence last month.
Whilst no surprise, his decision lets Schroeder and the SPD off the hook. In fact, the government did have a perfectly workable majority. Schroeder's sidekick, Müntefering (he of the Müntefering Terror), said as much immediately after the lost vote of confidence, in which the SPD voted tactically against their own Chancellor. But the SPD has lost the will to govern, whilst Schroeder was unwilling to do the decent thing and resign. So he opted for this route. Not unconstitutional, therefore - although technically, the President's decision remains open to challenge, if anyone can be bothered - just a little bit sordid.
But as all the parties and opinion polls show a huge majority for elections, a challenge would be no more than a quibble on a technicality. The election is set for September 18th. The centrist CDU is comfortably leading the polls, with about 42% to the SPD's 27%, but an outright majority is far from being a given, and the newly-formed Left Party, led by an ex-communist (Gysi) and a self-publicist (Lafontaine), could pick up a respectable protest vote (current poll:12%) on the back of populist promises.
Still, anything would be an improvement on the current Socialist/Green crowd, probably the worst German government since the war.