Germany’s highest court will decide this morning whether next month’s parliamentary election can go ahead.
The eight judges must rule if Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s path to an early poll is unconstitutional.
Any move to stop the vote would come as a major shock to politicians and financial markets, with parties now well into campaigns for an early election.
Schroeder asked for the vote to be brought forward a year after a crushing defeat in a key regional election in May. He subsequently called and deliberately lost a vote of confidence in parliament.
But two rebel deputies in his coalition brought the case to court claiming that Schroeder’s engineering was against the constitution.
If the election is given the go-ahead, polls suggest Angela Merkel’s opposition conservatives will win.
Her Christian Democratic Union is 12-14 points ahead. But the gap has been slowly shrinking since Bavarian ally, Edmund Stoiber made critical comments earlier this month about east Germans.
If the judges reject the plan for early elections, Schroeder may hang on in office until the end of his four-year term, although he could face pressure to step aside.