The decision to allow early elections in Germany has been interpreted as support by Gerhard Schröder, who said he can now pursue his new mandate. His opponents also seem to be relishing the now official contest.
Germany's highest court has ruled that next month's parliamentary election in Germany can go ahead, dismissing a claim that the path chosen by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to bring about the early vote was unconstitutional.
Schröder now considers himself to have the full backing of the constitutional court and hopes for fresh tailwind in his bid for re-election.
"It is now clear that voters will be electing a new parliament on Sept. 18," Schröder said. "This has been my prime intention, because I'm seeking a new mandate for my reform policy -- a policy which will make Germany strong again without threatening social cohesion."
Schröder asked for the general election to be brought forward 12 months after a crushing defeat in the key regional election in the former Social Democrat stronghold of North-Rhine Westphalia in May that has shaken his authority.
He paved the way for it by deliberately losing a vote of confidence in parliament. But rebels in his red-green alliance challenged the move arguing the vote was engineered, and infringed on their rights as MPs.
"A defeat for parliamentary democracy"
Werner Schulz from the Green Party was one of those who challenged the chancellor's tactics.
"This is not my personal defeat; it's a defeat for parliamentary democracy in Germany," Schulz said. "What's been strengthened by this ruling is the role of the chancellor in the system. So in 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."
But the decision stands and Germany will go to the polls on Sept. 18 -- and the nation's politicians, on the whole, welcomed the official go-ahead to an election campaign that has been up and running for weeks.
Merkel relishes chance of "new beginning"
Angela Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) chancellor candidate called the decision by the Karlsruhe court a chance for political change and said it would "put an end to the disappointing to-ing and fro-ing of the red-green government and open the way for a new union-controlled beginning."
Liberal Free Democrat Party (FDP) leader Guido Westerwelle echoed Merkel's sentiments by saying that the "way is free for a new beginning in Germany." The FDP's expert on economics, Rolf Kutzmutz, added that in 24 days, people all over Germany would have the chance to reverse the policies of "social dismantling, pension shortening, wage reduction and curtailment of employee's rights."
Bavarian state premier and Christian Social Union chief Edmund Stoiber sounded relieved when he said "thank God the way is now clear for a necessary change in Germany."
German President Horst Köhler, who took the step to disband parliament after Schröder gambled with a no-confidence vote, said: "Now the voters have a chance to have an influence over the future of our country. I call on you to make full use of your voting rights."