W. Berlin Liberals act against party defectors

In an action that supporters term democratic and opponents term suicidal, the West Berlin Liberals' left-wing majority has voted to begin censure proceedings against five of the party's tiny bloc of seven elected city council members.

At issue is the West Berlin party conference's decision after last May's election not to support the city council's conservative plurality in any form.

Acting on the advice of the national West German leadership of the Liberals (Free Democratic Party), the five Liberal city councilors ignored their local party's instructions and either voted for conservative Mayor Richard von Weizsaecker or abstained, thus giving the conservatives a majority.

Before the election the Liberals had formed a coalition with the West Berlin Social Democratic Party (SPD). The SPD ruled the city for the past 30 years. At the national West German level the Liberals and Social Democrats are also in coalition. Despite this, the national leadership urged its West Berlin city councilors to make a conservative majority government possible out of political responsibility -- and fear that minority administration would not be able to govern the city.

The West Berlin Liberals' action included reprimanding the national Liberal leadership, stripping three Liberal West Berlin councilors of their position as delegates to the party's national convention, and voting all right-wing members out of the West Berlin party executive committee. This now may force new elections on West Berlin. If so, it is doubtful whether the badly split West Berlin Liberals could again win the minimum 5 percent vote needed to get seats in the city council.

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