West Germans Join Social Democatic Party Convention With AM-Germany Bjt
Feb. 24, 1990
LEIPZIG, East Germany (AP) _ West German opposition leaders joined the East German Social Democrats at their convention Friday to criticize the policies of Helmut Kohl, the West German chancellor.
The convention chose Ibrahim Boehme, a 45-year-old historian, to be the party's chairman and lead it in East Germany's first free elections March 18.
The Social Democrats are favored to win the elections and Boehme could be the next premier of East Germany, which was ruled by Communists from the Stalinist mold until a few months ago. Several recent polls have indicated the Social Democrats would win at least 50 percent of the vote.
As the convention began in the industrial city of Leipzig, former Chancellor Willy Brandt started his weekend of East German campaigning with a rally in Plauen, a southern city.
He told an audience of 40,000: ''As Germans and as Europeans, we must cooperate in securing world peace.''
West German politicians, including Kohl, have taken advantage of the election campaign to speak at rallies across the country, despite misgivings by the Communist-led interim government.
While lending support to sister parties in East Germany, the West Germans also are seeking to establish power bases before reunification.
Speakers from West Germany often have overshadowed East German party leaders, making some campaign rallies seem like forums on West German political issues.
Earlier this week, Kohl addressed a rally of 100,000 in Erfurt and received a more enthusiastic reception that he usually gets back home.
National elections in West Germany are scheduled for December, and with the movement toward reunification gaining speed, some West German politicians think it could become an all-German ballot.
The left-leaning Social Democrats of West Germany accuse Kohl of rushing into unification in hopes of boosting his re-election chances by becoming the chancellor who reunites Germany.
They want one Germany, but favor what they describe as a more cautious pace in accomplishing it. Their East German sister party is a strong advocate of reunification.
Included in the West German delegation to the convention of East German Social Democrats on Friday was Oskar Lafontaine, the Saarland state governor who is expected to be the party's challenger to Kohl in December.
Brandt, who is very popular in East Germany, also will speak at the Leipzig convention, which continues through Sunday. He is to be made honorary chairman of the East German Social Democrats, the same title he has in West Germany.
Lafontaine's convention speech criticized Kohl for not giving billions of dollars in immediate aid.
East Germany requested $9 billion, but Kohl balked at providing it to a Communist-led interim government. West Germany did provide the equivalent of about $3.5 billion, most of it for projects over which the East German government would have little control.
Speaking to about 500 delegates, Lafontaine said Kohl's decision was a ''blow to Germany unity.''
He also criticized Kohl for calling 1989 the ''year of the Germans.'' It was much more a year of ''freedom and liberation of the people of Eastern Europe,'' he said.