East Germany Accepts Applications for Unemployment Benefits
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ East Germany today began accepting applications for unemployment benefits for the first time in the Communist nation’s 40-year history.
Also today, an opposition party leveled new accusations of fraud against the Communist leadership.
Unofficial estimates contend that 70,000 East Germans are unemployed, but Labor Ministry spokesman Joachim Guenter said the number of applicants was far lower than had been expected. Authorities speculated about 4,000 people would seek the new insurance.
While the number of unemployed is relatively low among East Germany’s 9 million workers, the figure is expected to shoot up to as much as 15 percent after competitive Western practices are introduced.
West Germany has offered an economic bailout of East Germany in return for a wholesale conversion to capitalism and eventual unity.
In the latest accusations against the embattled Communists, a little-known political group, the Independent People’s Party, filed a complaint in the nation’s high court alleging Communist Party leader Gregor Gysi manipulated financial records for 1989, East Germany’s ADN news agency reported.
The Communists previously controlled most of the nation’s wealth, and numerous accusations have been made against the former party leadership for allegedly skimming funds for personal use or misstating the party’s wealth to avoid having to turn over assets.
Gysi took over the party leadership in December and declared it a reformed organization free of corruption.
The complaint seeks to have Gysi jailed pending investigation. No immediate action was taken by judicial authorities on the People’s Party appeal.
There also was no immediate reaction from the Communist Party.
On Sunday, East German Premier Hans Modrow gave the Communists a last chance for political survival by agreeing to lead his party in March 18 elections. The reformist premier made the announcement at a political rally.
Although Modrow remains the most popular politician in East Germany, the Communists are expected to poorly in the balloting because their forerunners are blamed for leading the nation to the brink of collapse.
Modrow’s decision to stand by the party could draw enough voter support for a parliamentary presence.