A COLLAPSING economy and the approaching all-German elections are forces working against the coalition government in East Berlin. The harder they press in on the East German prime minister, the stronger the incentive to quickly merge the two Germanys.
Both factors were in evidence this week when East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maizi`ere announced the departure of four of his Cabinet members. The ministers of agriculture and finance were fired, while the ministers of economics and justice resigned.
Just hours before the announcement Wednesday, Peter Pollack, the agriculture minister, was pelted with eggs and tomatoes as he tried to address a crowd of 50,000 angry farmers demonstrating in East Berlin. The farmers are frustrated because they are completely unable to compete with West German produce flooding their country.
Walter Romberg, the sacked finance minister, is a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) - a partner in Mr. de Maizi`ere's broad coalition but the main opposition in Bonn. West German Finance Minister Theo Waigel has accused Mr. Romberg of pressing for outrageous sums in West German financial aid.
The SPD in East Germany is again threatening to quit the coalition, this time over the Romberg firing. Its previous threats focused on the rules and date for an all-German election, which will be on Dec. 2. The dispute over rules was finally settled with an election law that is expected to be passed by special sessions of the East and West German parliaments next week.
The deeper the economic and political upheaval in East Berlin, the greater the likelihood East Germany will decide to merge quickly with West Germany. Bonn would then be the administrator until the new all-German parliament is elected.
Since economic, monetary, and social union in July, East Germany has lost a good deal of sovereignty to Bonn already. Why not let the West Germans take over what's left, many East German politicians are asking.
There is, however, one piece of unfinished business between the two Germanys: the second state treaty, also called the unification treaty, whose last round of negotiations begin Monday.
The treaty extends West German law to East Germany and is considered East Berlin's last chance to see its own agenda items adopted. The treaty, though, is not essential to unity, and East Germany could choose to merge with West Germany without it.
If the SPD makes good on its threat to leave the coalition, it may come to this. Without SPD votes in parliament, de Maizi`ere would not have the necessary two-thirds majority needed to adopt the treaty.
In addition to the two firings, the resignation of Kurt W"unsche, the justice minister, highlights another problem for the East Germans. Mr. W"unsche used to be justice minister under former East German leader Walter Ulbricht, a hard-core Stalinist. When de Maizi`ere brought him into his Cabinet, West Germans as well as East Germans were appalled.
In his new administration, W"unsche had fought off steady criticism. He was accused of proceeding too slowly with the investigation and prosecution of former Communist officials and members of the secret police, known as Stasi.
The West German press this week revealed further Stasi atrocities. According to the reports, the Stasi organized the assassination of several East German refugees after they had started their new lives in West Germany in the 1970s and early '80s.
Stasi history also took its toll on de Mazi`ere's own party, the Christian Democratic Union, this week. Martin Kirchner, the manager of the party, was suspended after reports surfaced in the press that he had been a Stasi informer.