With the words ``God protect our German fatherland,'' the democratically elected parliament in East Germany convened for the first time yesterday. After nearly three weeks of post-election political maneuvering, the new government took its first steps. The 400-seat parliament, a patchwork of 12 alliances and parties, elected a parliamentary president, Sabine Bergmann-Pohl, a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - which has the most seats in parliament.
It was also expected to create the largely ceremonial office of state president (which West Germany has) and make other constitutional changes. The session was televised throughout East and West Germany.
The main job ahead is to build a grand coalition government, in which the conservative Alliance for Germany (192 seats), the Social Democrats (88 seats), and the Liberals (21 seats) will participate. Five committees set up to work out common positions among the three groups are expected to meet today.
On an issue related to German reunification, currency union, there is general support among the coalition partners (except for the Liberals) for a 1-to-1 exchange rate for wages and pensions. This does not match the 2-to-1 rate proposed by the West German central bank last week, which looks unlikely to be adopted by the Bonn government.
There also seems to be general agreement among the coalition partners that, in the course of reunification, the West German Constitution should undergo some changes to reflect East German input. But they disagree on the extent and pace of the changes.
Lothar de Maizi`ere, chairman of the CDU, the largest party in parliament, is not expected to be elected prime minister until next Wednesday, when the parliament meets again. Between now and then, he will be building his 24-member Cabinet. The Social Democrats have a keen interest in the Labor and Social ministries; the CDU wants to bring in a West German to run the Economics Ministry.