Liberal Party Bolts From Government, Governing Coalition in Trouble
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ A political party quit East Germany’s coalition government Tuesday and another group threatened to follow suit in a political crisis over how united German elections should be held.
The Liberal Party, which controls 21 seats in the 400-member Parliament, said it was leaving the seven-party governing coalition of Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere.
Rainer Ortleb, chairman of the Liberal faction in Parliament, said his party’s decision was based partly on de Maiziere’s ″scandalous″ alliance with the deposed former Communists on the election question.
The dispute is over whether December elections for a single German Parliament should be held separately in each nation, or whether the two countries should be treated as a single electorate.
Separate elections would give West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl an edge over his main rival, Social Democrat Oskar Lafontaine, in the elections of a unified German nation.
The left-leaning Social Democrats, the second-biggest party in East Germany, also have threatened to resign from de Maiziere’s government.
After a meeting of party leaders, the Social Democrats said they will leave the coalition Friday unless de Maiziere’s Christian Democrats meet their demands, according to a statement carried by the East German news agency, ADN.
Such a collapse would cause de Maiziere to lose control of the Parliament, where a two-thirds majority is needed to enact unification.
However, all major parties are committed to unification. The strife, if not settled, would more likely slow the process than derail it.
The fight that began last week has been derided by the press and by Germans appalled that the historic quest for a united Germany has been reduced to political infighting.
De Maiziere said the Liberals’ decision was purely political and against the interests of East Germans.
″The Liberal faction preferred to tell me of their decision to leave the coalition through a news agency, despite my offer of a bridge that was supposed to lead to a solution of the conflict today,″ he told ADN.
The Liberal’s sister party in West Germany, the Free Democrats, are the junior partner of Kohl’s governing coalition. The rift in East Germany was mirrored in West Germany, where political parties greatly influence the decisions of their surrogates in the East.
Free Democrat chief Otto Lambsdorff blamed de Maiziere for the break in the coalition.
He said de Maiziere’s decision to ally his party with the former Communists was ″unforgivable.″
West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a Christian Democrat, said the Liberals and the Free Democrats were acting ″irresponsibly″ and would pay for it at the voting booth.
De Maiziere and several smaller parties, including the former Communists, want the two nations to formally unify immediately after German elections are held on Dec. 2.
Simultaneous elections would be held in each nation. The votes would be counted separately and political representation would be based on how each party did in its own country.
Under de Maiziere’s proposal, smaller parties in East Germany - including the former Communists - would stand a better chance of winding up in the united Parliament.
That would help Kohl’s Christian Democrats, which wants some of the smaller conservative parties to win Parliament seats so it can forge a governing majority with them.
The Social Democrats, meanwhile, believe they would be hurt by separate elections because a proliferation of small leftist parties could split the left-leaning representation in Parliament.
Ortleb said separate elections for a single Parliament would be illegal under the West German constitution, which will become the constitution of a united Germany.
The Social Democrats criticized de Maiziere for forming an informal alliance with the Party of Democratic Socialism, successor party to the Communist Party, which ruled East Germany with an iron fist for four decades before it was toppled last autumn.
″The scandalous alliance of the prime minister and the (former Communists) is unbearable for us Liberals,″ the party said in a statement.
De Maiziere’s Christian Democrats finished first in the country’s first democratic elections on March 18 by promising quick unification with West Germany.
If the Social Democrats also leave the East German governing coalition, as they have threatened, de Maiziere could try to form a new government or govern with a minority.
The seven-party coalition now controls the two-thirds majority needed to approve unification with West Germany. However, if the disgruntled parties bolt, de Maiziere would only control about 198 of the 400 seats.