Alternatives in Germany
Two days after the drama in Germany, the alternatives for the future are beginning to be somewhat more clear.
On the non-socialist side, it is obvious that CDU and CSU will nominate Angela Merkel as their candidate for chancellor the coming Monday. Bavarian PM and CSU Chairman Edmund Stoiber evidently want's to be part of the team, and is busy negotiating the conditions.
It's also clear that the aim is to form a coalition government between the CDU/CSU and the liberal party FDP. In a way, the FDP has cleared the way for this by making clear that its parliamentary leader Wolfgang Gerhardt will emerge as the contender for the position of foreign minister. He is widely seen as a safe pair of hands on these issues.
On the other side there is more of drama. Tensions inside the SPD was illustrated when left-wing former SPD Chairman and finance minister Oscar Lafontaine left the party.
And it's clear that the SDP will not campaign together with the Greens in any sort of way. Suddenly, there is no love lost between them.
A subtle reason for this is that Gerhard Schröder can't really combine his motives for going to early elections with a continued commitment to a red-green coalition. He claimed - rightly! - that it would be impossible for a red-green government with a CDU/CSU majority in the Bundesrat second chamber in which the state government are represented.
This argument, taken seriously, rules out a red-green coalition even in the event of the SPD and the Greens achieving a majority in the Bundestag after the election.
The only credible alternative in such a case would then probably be a grand coaliton between the SPD and the CDU/CSU. No one really wants to talk about it, but that seems to be the true alternative to a government between the CDU/CSU and the FDP.
So oder so - we are heading for a rather dramatic political change in Germany. It will have repercussions throughout Europe.