Gerhard Schroeder faces his first major test today in his battle to remain the German Chancellor.
He has called a confidence vote in the Bundestag but he wants his own supporters not to back him so he can call an early election.
It is the only option open to Schroeder as the German constitution does notallow its leaders to pick and choose when they put their jobs on the line.
Schroeder could have achieved the same result by resigning but the Bundestag would then be forced to elect a new Chancellor.
The dilemma now confronting the politicians in Berlin began a month ago after the ruling SPD party lost elections in the key state of North Rhine Westphalia.
The defeat left the Chancellor facing a growing Christian Democrat majority in Germany’s upper house, the Bundesrat, and an increasingly strong rival in CDU chief Angela Merkel.
She is poised to become Germany’s first female leader with opinion polls putting her way ahead.
But the vote of confidence has received a mixed response from government MPs, some of whom are unhappy about the decision to hold an early election.
Furthermore, a legal challenge or the German president could still derail the whole process.