German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appears set for a mid-September showdown with his conservative rivals after his shock decision to bring forward federal elections by a year.According to his office, Schroeder will seek a vote of confidence on July 1: the necessary legal step before he can dissolve parliament and hold a general election. With Schroeder’s Social Democrats far behind in the polls, conservative leader Angela Merkel is looking a promising prospect for Germany’s first woman chancellor. Merkel grew up in the former East Germany and became a protege of ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. A fresh poll has her conservatives leading at 53 percent ahead of the ruling coalition which scores just 37 percent. Schroeder has seen his ratings plunge as his economic reforms have failed to boost Europe’s largest economy, evidenced last year with street demonstrations after unemployment in Germany reached a post-war high.