German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said he will try to call early elections following his party's loss of a key powerbase. Here is the full text of Mr Schroeder's address.
Germany is in the midst of a sweeping process of change. Under the special conditions to overcome (the consequences of) the division of Germany, our country needs to be put on the track to face the challenges of the 21st Century.
Our Agenda 2010 [the government's program of social reforms] has put in place decisive instruments to do so.
We have taken the necessary steps to make sure that the social security systems will resist in the future and that the competitiveness of the German economy is strengthened.
These are indispensable conditions for more growth and jobs in Germany.
The first results on this path are visible.
But it takes time for the reforms to have a favourable impact on the life of all people in our country.
Above all, citizens must support such a policy.
The bitter result for my party in North Rhine-Westphalia jeopardises the political basis for the continuation of our task.
I think that for the reforms to be pursued, the majority of Germans must clearly back them now.
Therefore I believe that it is my duty and responsibility as chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany to take steps so that the president of the republic can use the possibilities offered by the constitution to open the path to new elections to the German Bundestag [the lower house of the German parliament] as quickly as possible, that is realistically in the autumn of this year.