Schroeder loses confidence vote
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BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder lost a confidence vote in parliament Friday, opening the door for possible new elections.
The confidence motion garnered 151 votes, short of the 301 votes needed as members of Schroeder's own Social Democrat party obeyed his request to abstain.
President Horst Koehler now has 21 days to decide whether to accept the result and call an election, which would probably be held September 18.
"Without a new mandate my political program cannot be carried forward," Schroeder told a parliamentary debate on Friday.
He is trailing badly in the polls and has suffered a series of defeats in local elections.
A chancellor, Schroeder said, "needs a constant and reliable basis for his policies." He told the parliamentary debate he would seek a mandate "to continue what has been begun."
Angela Merkel, head of the conservative Christian Democrats, took the podium and said Schroeder's coalition could "no longer govern."
She said her party welcomed the chance for new elections.
If Merkel's party wins and can form a government, she would become Germany's first female chancellor.
Schroeder called for early elections after his party lost a crucial regional election on May 22. A national poll was not due until 2006.
He has tried to spur the sluggish economy and reduce unemployment by trimming costs to business, but the moves have met resistance within his party.
He told the Bundestag on Monday that he would be seeking the vote of confidence.
New elections are not certain to go ahead, however. President Hoerst Koehler refuse to dissolve the Bundestag on the grounds that the vote has been manipulated.
The German constitution grants the president that power to ensure that parliaments are not dissolved early by chancellors merely seeking to secure re-election, something which happened often in the Weimar and early Nazi period.
If Koehler rejects the vote, Schroeder would still have the option of resigning, however he has indicated he would not do that.
If Koehler dissolves the parliament, a new national ballot would have to be held within 60 days.
A recent poll found 71 percent of Germans favored an early election, with 24 percent opposed.
Schroeder last called a vote of confidence in November 2001, on the issue of sending German troops to Afghanistan.
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