The premier of the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, Peter Harry Carstensen, has deliberately set himself up to be voted out of office in a move to press for a snap election.
Carstensen wants to wave goodbye to the CDU-SPD partnership
Carstensen lost a vote of no confidence in his premiership in the state legislature in Kiel on Thursday, a result he had been counting on. He is expected to remain in office as caretaker.
The 62-year-old was heavily criticized by opposition deputies over his plan to move state elections forward to September 27 rather than let his tenure run its course to May next year. German federal elections are also to be held September 27.
The coalition partner of Carstensen's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democrats (SPD), had rejected Carstensen's election plan and his calls for the state partnership to be broken. As a result of that refusal the conservative premier sacked four SPD ministers in his government.
Since he had no direct power to call an election, Carstensen then invited Thursday's vote of no confidence in the state assembly, certain that the SPD would join the opposition to vote against him and thus bring about an election. The CDU abstained.
The CDU, which is the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, leads in state and federal polls and is expected to win both nationally and in Schleswig-Holstein.
In a debate before the vote, the SPD leader in the state, Ralf Stegner, denied the SPD had caused friction in the coalition. He accused Carstensen of engineering a split so he could amass power.
The inability of the SPD to fight back has increased the embarrassment of the centre-left party as election day nears, and added to an impression that it is heading into a period in opposition.
The soured relationship between the CDU and SPD in Schleswig-Holstein is seen as an indication of the status of the relationship at the federal level.
CDU politicians in Berlin are also looking for a divorce from their SPD partners, which would allow the party to form a new coalition with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP). The CDU and SPD have been coalition allies both federally and in Schleswig Holstein since 2005.
Editor: Neil King