Kohl's Party Sweeps Elections in Eastern Germany

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THE state elections in former East Germany on Sunday were a clear affirmation of Helmut Kohl's policy and indicated he will likely win the all-German elections on Dec. 2. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Chancellor Kohl's party, won 43.6 percent of the vote. It took four of the five new states (Saxony, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, and Mecklenburg).

In Saxony, the most populous and industrial of the eastern German states, the conservative CDU led by Kurt Biedenkopf won an absolute majority.

Despite the importing of three top candidates from western Germany, the left-wing Social Democratic Party (SPD) won 25.2 percent of the vote and took only one state, Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin. Its premier will be Manfred Stolpe, a clergyman who played a key role in the revolution last year.

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The SPD, however, did improve its standing in comparison to the East German elections last March - as did the CDU, the Free Democrats (Kohl's coalition partner in Bonn), and the citizens' movements.

These gains were at the expense of the former Communist Party, which lost significant ground in all five states. The reformed Communists announced Sunday that they plan to expand nationwide.

The campaign theme was universal in the five states: how to save the economy. The Social Democrats tried to convince voters that they are the best guarantors of social welfare at a time of insecurity.

But voters put their trust in Kohl's party, which they perceive as more experienced in economic matters. Meanwhile Kohl, just days before the elections, announced plans for a 15 percent increase in east German pensions and a 10 billion deutsche mark ($6.6 billion) housing renovation program for eastern Germany.

In a separate election in Bavaria, the most conservative state in what used to be West Germany, the CDU's sister party held its absolute majority.

The election results will enable the CDU to regain its majority in the Bundesrat, CDU officials say. The Bundesrat, the second chamber in the German parliament, has veto power over financial and state matters.

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