AT a campaign rally in Alexander Platz this week, East Berliners peppered candidates with questions. Most of them centered on one topic - life after reunification. What's going to happen to pensions?, they asked. Will it be harder to get an abortion? How much unemployment will there be? One man wanted to know if country houses, called by the Russian name dacha, would be more expensive.
``At the moment, anxieties are predominant. ... People are concerned with the details of unity,'' says a Western diplomat here.
This is borne out by the parties themselves. Running neck and neck in the country's first democratic, parliamentary elections Sunday, the two main contenders each present themselves as the surest, safest way to unity.
``You don't need to be afraid of us,'' Ibrahim B"ohme assured a crowd of voters here on Tuesday. Mr. B"ohme, the leading candidate for the left-of-center Social Democratic Party (SPD) and possibly the next prime minister, insists that social guarantees accompany monetary union.
Although the West German mark will give East Germans more buying power, B"ohme explains, it will also trigger unemployment and possibly inflation.
The conservative Alliance for Germany, made up of three parties backed by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, is also trying to dampen fears. Mr. Kohl, campaigning for the Alliance in East Germany this week, promised that monetary union would not hurt ``small savers'' because they would receive a favorable 1-to-1 exchange rate.
Kohl's appearance highlights another aspect of this unique campaign. With their eye on all-German elections, now projected for next year, the West German parties have sunk personnel, office equipment, and know-how into this election. Slick posters printed in the West are plastered everywhere.
The party with no Western backing - the former communists, now called the Party for Democratic Socialism - is left to draw on the wit of its intellectuals.
Simply organizing this election has been a feat. Only last week were enough volunteers found to staff seven-member election committees to oversee each of the voting stations in East Germany. Many candidates for the 400-seat parliament have no more political experience than what they have acquired in recent weeks and months. These candidates represent themselves simply as mothers, chemists, or lawyers who want to get involved.
Since East Germans will only be voting for parties (candidate names will appear alongside the party on the ballot), party image is important.
In the last few weeks, the conservative Alliance has caught up to the SPD in the polls. Analysts say this is because Kohl champions the group and he controls the money faucet in West Germany. But the conservatives' surge could be checked by the resignation this week of Wolfgang Schnur, leader of Democratic Awakening, one of the three parties under the Alliance. Mr. Schnur, a human rights lawyer, apparently cooperated with the hated state secret police in the course of his career.