Lower Saxony's state parliament has dissolved to pave the way for early elections in October. The coalition government lost its majority of one recently when a Green deputy jumped ship for the Christian Democrats.
On Monday, lawmakers voted 135-1 to dissolve Lower Saxony's state parliament.
The Green deputy Elke Twesten jumped ship for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) three weeks ago. The switch cost the Greens' coalition government with the ruling Social Democrats (SPD), led by State Premier Stephan Weil, its single-seat majority.
Voters in Lower Saxony will now get to make two trips to the polls this fall: first to pick a new federal parliament on September 24 and then to elect state lawmakers in snap elections on October 15 - three months ahead of schedule.
The SPD accused the CDU of damaging the state's democracy and political culture by luring Twesten away. The CDU, which is leading in polls, countered that the SPD had discredited democratic processes.
In a twist of political irony, the governments most likely to emerge from Lower Saxony's early elections are a CDU-Greens coalition or, as at the federal level, a grand coalition of the CDU and SPD, presided over by the state's top Christian Democrat, Bernd Althusmann.
The state's politics has also been shaken up by the so-called "Dieselgate" scandal engulfing Volkswagen and other carmakers. The state holds a stake in VW and its head of government, Weil, sits on the company's board.
mkg/msh (AFP, dpa)