Court rejects attempt to block elections set for next month in Germany

It finds chancellor justified in dissolving parliament

August 26, 2005|By Jeffrey Fleishman | Jeffrey Fleishman,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BERLIN - An attempt to block elections scheduled for next month was denied yesterday by Germany's Constitutional Court, which found that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's inability to hold a legislative majority justified dissolving parliament and calling for a new vote.

Meanwhile, Social Democrat Schroeder and his conservative challenger, Angela Merkel, campaigned in a country where voters are angry about high unemployment and an economy that has been troubled for years.

Analysts expect Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrats, to be elected the country's first female chancellor Sept. 18.

The nation's highest court was drawn into the political arena when two legislators in Schroeder's coalition questioned the legality of early elections. The chancellor's term was to expire next year, but he called for a new vote after Social Democrats lost control of a key state and it became apparent that liberals in his party would not back his economic and social reforms.

Schroeder argued that the situation left the government in a political deadlock that would evolve into a crisis for Europe's biggest economy. The legislators challenged Schroeder's assessment, arguing that the chancellor deliberately lost a vote of no confidence and violated the German Constitution.

In announcing the court's 7-1 ruling, Winfried Hassemer, its vice president, said, "The court was seen as having had the choice between the plague and cholera. The plague is the initiation of a state crisis with the court trying to stop the election campaign that is already sweeping the country. And cholera is the attempt to avoid a state crisis by bending the constitution. In this view, the court could only make mistakes."

Werner Schulz, a Green Party member who filed the suit, called the ruling "a defeat for parliamentary democracy in Germany. What's been strengthened by this ruling is the role of the chancellor in the system. So, in the future, every time a chancellor suspects, assumes or even thinks to assume that he has no majority anymore, he is allowed to send home the entire parliament."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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