Communist Premier Agrees to Give Opposition Role in Gov’t
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ Premier Hans Modrow said Monday he would open the Cabinet to the pro- democracy opposition, and former Communist Party leader Egon Krenz apologized for his role in secret police operations.
They spoke during negotiations on East Germany’s future between the party and opposition groups, which immediately accepted Modrow’s offer.
Pro-democracy activists demonstrated in at least eight cities after nightfall, including more than 100,000 in Leipzig. The official news agency ADN also reported rallies in Berlin, Cottbus, Dresden, Halle, Potsdam, Schwerin and Suhl.
East German border guards began tearing down a 330-yard section of the Berlin Wall in the Kreuzberg district, to be replaced by a metal fence, said Werner Kolhoff, a West Berlin government spokesman. He said an East German official told him other sections would be dismantled soon.
Manfred Gerlach of the Liberal Democratic Party, interim president of East Germany, said Jan. 2 the wall would be replaced with ″normal border markings.″ The Berlin Wall was built in 1961.
Modrow bowed to pressure to revise his 27-member Cabinet, which previously excluded all but Communists and traditional allies.
The leadership, which replaced Communist hard-liners last year during a peaceful popular revolt, has been trying to appease an opposition upset with the pace of promised reform. Modrow’s declaration came one day after the No. 2 figure in the Communist Party quit and joined the Social Democrats.
Until Monday, reformist groups such as New Forum, Democratic Awakening and the Social Democracts had resisted joining Modrow’s government, partly from fear voters would hold them responsible by for the economic mess left by four decades of Communist rule.
The Social Democratic leader, Ibrahim Boehme, said a coalition was possible ″if all parties and groups are prepared to enter the government on an emergency basis, without weeks-long negotiations.″
Modrow proposed political groups meet Wednesday to consider a new Cabinet, but did not make clear which or how many ministries might be offered the opposition.
Communists hold 16 of the 27 seats and the remainder are divided among four parties once allied with them: the Liberal Democrats with four, Christian Democrats with three and two each for the National Democrats and farmers’ party.
East Germany’s first free elections are to be held May 6, but broad differences between the Communist-dominated government and opposition groups have delayed economic reform measures and hindered the transition to democracy.
Krenz, who was ousted from the leadership Dec. 3 and expelled by his party Sunday, apologized for the ″old security doctrine″ he imposed on the country.
He appeared before the political forum to answer allegations that he helped falsify previous election results and misused the secret police service for political aims.
The 52-year-old career politician conceded there had never been free elections in East Germany, ″only ballot-folding,″ and said he believed some votes failed to reach the central counting facility after elections in May.
But he denied the results were falsified, and cast himself as one who had fought for change from within.
Krenz apologized for his role in leading East Germany to its crisis and said he hoped the people would forgive him.
″As a citizen and Christian I accept your apology,″ responded Wolfgang Ullmann of the Democracy Now reform movement.
In a rare display of unity, the opposition groups joined Modrow in denouncing a West German newspaper report Monday alleging that soldiers and secret police agents were planning a coup.
The Hamburg newspaper Bild contended the renegades had held joint exercises and said a general strike could be used as the pretext for an armed takeover.
″I must decisively reject as provocation a report in today’s Bild newspaper,″ Modrow said.
He said he had checked with the interior and defense ministers, who assured him no signs of such preparation had been detected.
Wolfgang Schnur, a leader in the Democratic Awakening movement, called the Bild report a ″horror story.″
Modrow also announced the resignation of Communist Finance Minister Uta Nickel, the target of a criminal inquiry into alleged financial irregularities. Ms. Nickel has denied wrongdoing.
On Sunday, the Communists lost one of their most popular members when Dresden Mayor Wolfgang Berghofer, a party deputy chairman, defected to the Social Democrats.
The moves were expected to cause mass defections from the party. Its membership in the country of 16.3 million people has plunged to 1.2 million from nearly 2.3 million in 1987.