ALONG with washing machines, cars, and marmalade, East Germans are importing yet another product from the western part of their country: politicians. On Oct. 14, the area that used to be East Germany will, through the election of state parliaments, be divided again into the five states that existed before World War II, each headed by a premier. In three of the five states, the local party organizations have asked West Germans to run for the premiership (akin to a governorship) rather than field candidates themselves.
After 40 years of communism, ``there is hardly anyone here with government experience who is not tainted'' by the past, says Peter Adler, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) running for parliament in soon-to-be restored Saxony.
The biggest of the five states, Saxony is the scene of a contest between two prominent West Germans with a long history in Bonn politics.
Kurt Biedenkopf is running for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the conservative party of Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Mr. Biedenkopf made the headlines last April when he moved to Leipzig, home of the East German revolution, to teach economics at the university there. Anke Fuchs, general secretary of the SPD, the mainstream left-of-center opposition party, is Biedenkopf's opponent.
Saxons at rallies for both candidates didn't seem to mind the fact that their state will soon be governed by a Bonn import.
``We've joined with West Germany and we want the same standards as soon as possible. These candidates grew up in a free-market economy, know how it works, and can bring that knowledge here,'' says Uwe Koschkar, an electronics repairman at a Biedenkopf rally in Weisswasser, near Poland.
``We need someone who can take the whole thing in hand,'' says Heinz Hofmann, a machine-tool instructor in Leipzig who had come to hear Ms. Fuchs speak.
The elections on Oct. 14 amount to a total reorganization of local government in former East Germany.
Fourteen districts, excluding East Berlin, must be consolidated into five states. (Berlin will have its own election on Dec. 2 and is not included in the five). The districts were used to receiving orders from central government. The states must govern themselves under West Germany's federalist tradition and be responsible for their own finance, cultural affairs, education, and police.
The elections are also being closely watched by Mr. Kohl in Bonn. His center-right coalition lost the majority in the Bundesrat this year to the SPD. The Bundesrat is the second chamber of government and made up of L"ander (states) representatives. Its approval is needed on tax and financial issues - a major theme due to the cost of unification.
To win back its majority in the Bundesrat, the CDU must take four of the five states. According to polls, this looks achievable. The SPD is ahead in only one of the new L"ander - Brandenburg, surrounding Berlin.
In Saxony, the CDU is perceived as the party that brought unity and the deutsche mark and is far in the lead.
Biedenkopf, admired for actually moving to East Germany to teach economics, has visited all but three of the 45 Saxony districts. His highest priorities are to create conditions that will quickly lure investors and to build an efficient government fortified with experts from western Germany.
Joblessness is the No. 1 concern here and Fuchs is trying to chip at Biedenkopf's lead by appealing to the unemployed.
``Private capital and businesses are not enough,'' she told supporters at a rally in the Leipzig marketplace. Local government, she said, needs an infusion of funds from Bonn for rebuilding and jobs.