As recently as two months ago, no one envisaged Germany in the throes of an election campaign this summer. The whole post-war constitutional system is predicated on avoiding instability, and this will be only the third time that parliamentary elections have been held early.
When Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democrats were trounced in their long-time ﬁefdom of North Rhine-Westphalia in May, the expectation was that the red-green coalition in Berlin would battle on. Instead, in a gamble typical of this risk-taking chancellor, Schröder declared he would seek a new mandate.
In mid July, Germany’s President, Horst Köhler, was still deciding whether to exercise his power to dissolve the Bundestag following the vote of no conﬁdence in Schröder’s centre-left coalition at the beginning of the month. The former head of the International Monetary Fund, elected head of state only twelve months ago, had 21 days in which to decide and said he would take his time.