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Germany

1Early Elections Prompt Reserved Optimism

With the green light given by German President Horst Köhler, most politicians and people expect to vote on September 18. There is relief that changes might happen but do Germans think they will?

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Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had one request and it was fulfilled

The chips have fallen. After almost three weeks of speculation, President Horst Köhler has met the request of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to hold elections 12 months ahead of schedule.

Pointing to the chancellor's lack of a stable majority within his coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, Köhler will give a new -- or potentially the same -- administration to take on what he called "immense tasks" in the country.

Something that with few exceptions was welcomed by Germans across the country.

Politicians pleased for most part

Although parliament is in recess and most politicians are enjoying their vacations at home or even abroad, the importance of dissolution meant a return to Berlin.

Horst Köhler

German President Horst Koehler

Coming from his home town Hanover to speak, Schröder called the confirmation of his request "correct and necessary" and wasted no time in announcing that he would run again as the SPD candidate for chancellor. Reforms are imperative according to Schröder.

"I am going to fight to do that," he said.

The whole party leadership stood behind the chancellor but within the ranks, there were voices of dissent. SPD parliamentarian Jelena Hoffmann, along with her Green colleague Werner Schulz, want to go to the country's Constitutional Court to overturn Köhler's dissolution of the Bundestag.

Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats are rubbing their hands over the decision. Sitting on an almost 17 point lead in the opinion polls, a victory in less than two months is theirs for the taking. Merkel referred to the country's five million unemployed, saying the country didn't "have to make do" with that.

"I am asking us to move forward together for a better Germany, in which people can again seize their opportunities," she said after Köhler's address.

Labor unions and big business agree on something

Schlechtwettervorhersage

The tendency of the German economy has been downwards compared to the rest of the world

The weak economic situation has been an Achilles' heel for Schröder. Big business complains of costs, particularly non-wage labor costs. Labor unions protest that the country's big companies are making money hand over fist while leaving workers in the lurch. They also must watch their influence erode within the SPD, and Germany in general.

Yet on this issue, the two sides are in agreement.

German Trade Union Federation (DGB) chair Michael Sommer commented that a phase of uncertainty and stagnation could be brought to an end.

"We finally need some decisive policies for more growth and employment," Sommer said. He also announced that the DGB would not throw its weight behind any one party, an open break with the historically labor-friendly SPD.

Jürgen Thumann BDI

Jürgen Thumann

The Federation of German Industries (BDI), a body representing German companies, also didn't hesitate to express their sanguinity about the effect of early elections. BDI president Jürgen Thumann (photo right) offered a chance for a new start and growth.

"It's most important that the new administration can break down the country's weaknesses and build up its strengths with courage, strength and speed," Thumann said.

Polls reveal that a large majority of the people, 73 percent, are behind the dissolution but it's hard to say if they will turn out in droves to turn in their ballots. An equally large number, 76 percent, believe nothing will change if a new coalition takes over.

Yet the new "Left Party" may find willing voters. Peter Jung, a works council chairman who says he has fought losing battle after losing battle to his firm's management, said he will vote again for the first time in years -- for Oskar Lafontaine.

Leipziger Montagsdemonstration Lafontaine

Left party co-chair Oskar Lafontaine marches for social justice in Germany

"Maybe people will get scared enough that certain things will get done differently," he offered. "How can things ever change if you're not prepared to offer resistance?"

Everybody now agrees that change is necessary and are putting their chips on early elections to bring it about.

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