German conservatives squabble following elections
Bonn — The biggest political feud here following heavy conservative losses in two state elections over the weekend concerns what Der Spiegel magazine has called West Germany's ``Watergate.'' But intramural squabbling between conservatives at the federal level and concern about the modest success of a radical right party in Bremen also mark the morning-after reactions.
The accusations against Schleswig-Holstein's incumbent conservative Premier Uwe Barschel were brought by Der Spiegel, a news magazine, and a former official of Dr. Barschel's press department, Reiner Pfeiffer.
Mr. Pfeiffer alleged publicly that during the campaign Barschel personally commissioned him to send anonymous letters claiming that Social Democratic candidate Bj"orn Engholm had evaded taxes, and to have private detectives tail Mr. Engholm to look for sexual indiscretions. Pfeiffer further alleged that Barschel told him a week ago to plant a bug in Barschel's own telephone, then arrange for its discovery to sow suspicion that Engholm had planted it.
Engholm subsequently was cleared of the tax charge. Barschel has denied all of Pfeiffer's accusations and has filed suit for libel against Der Spiegel and Pfeiffer. He also fired Pfeiffer on Monday.
Barschel barely hung onto his premiership in Sunday's elections, losing more than six percent of his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) votes, but staying in office by forming a coalition with the Liberals to hold 50 percent of the seats and secure a majority with the ``tolerance'' of the single Danish minority representative.
At the federal level quarrels rage among the conservatives over the disastrous CDU drop of more than 10 percent in Bremen - where the Social Democrats continue to hold their absolute majority - as well as the fall in Schleswig-Holstein.
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's CDU is trying to move toward the center to take advantage of the leftist tilt by Social Democrats and win middle-of-the-road votes.
Franz Josef Strauss, premier of Bavaria and chairman of the CDU's junior sister party, the Christian Social Union, resists any such shift. He argues that to integrate West German voters, no party must be allowed to arise to the right of the main conservative parties.
The extreme right party which took one seat in the Bremen legislature is the well-funded German Peoples Union. It won only 3.4 percent of the total vote, but got 5.4 percent in one district - enough to enter the state legislature for the first time.