BONN, OCT. 16 -- The apparent suicide of a fast-rising West German state premier, who had been at the center of a local "dirty tricks" scandal, has made amateur detectives of West Germans this week and triggered a round of soul-searching about the health of their political culture.

The tangled circumstances surrounding the discovery of Uwe Barschel's body in the bathtub of his Geneva hotel room on Sunday rivaled those of the best Agatha Christie tale.

Questions were raised in pub conversations and newspaper headlines:

Why was Barschel's body found fully clothed in a tub filled with water? What happened to the bottle of Beaujolais wine that room service brought him on the night before his death? Where was the mysterious informer, whom he met in Geneva, who supposedly had a photograph that could salvage his promising political career?

Speculation about the cause of death ended Wednesday. Laboratory results after an autopsy showed that Barschel, 43, died of the effects of five kinds of sleeping pills and tranquilizers found in his stomach and blood.

Today, Swiss police spokesman Marcel Vaudroz confirmed what most amateur sleuths had already concluded: "Everything points to a suicide." The investigation is not complete, but "there is no evidence indicating a murder," Vaudroz told Reuter.

Barschel's wife and brother said earlier in the week that they believed that someone killed him. Adding to the confusion was a statement by the government of Barschel's home state of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany that he apparently died of a heart attack.

The family has requested a second autopsy. A Swiss magistrate has not yet formally approved it.

Barschel's death called additional attention to the month-old scandal in Schleswig-Holstein that already had aroused disillusionment over the status of West German democracy.

Barschel was forced to resign as premier of Schleswig-Holstein on Sept. 25 after allegations that he had ordered a series of "dirty tricks" against his Social Democratic opponent, Bjoern Engholm, prior to state elections on Sept. 13. Barschel belonged to Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conservative Christian Democratic Union.

One of Barschel's press aides accused Barschel of hiring private detectives to gather damaging information about Engholm's sex life. Barschel also allegedly arranged to have an anonymous letter written to local authorities charging his opponent with tax fraud and allegedly sought to frame Engholm for wiretapping Barschel's office.

Barschel consistently denied the allegations, but his own party deserted him as details emerged that appeared to confirm the press aide's account.

Many commentators called on parties to tone down the bitter partisanship seen frequently in politics here that helped fuel the scandal.

"Many have the feeling that the Federal Republic {West Germany} is suffering from a political and moral 'immune deficiency,' " Helmut Herles wrote in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Theo Sommer, editor of the influential Die Zeit, wrote in a front-page commentary, "The whole political process has been discredited."

West Germans are particularly sensitive about protecting democratic values, because their republic is just 38 years old and is only the second democratic regime in German history. The first -- the Weimar republic of 1919 to 1933 -- ended with the Nazi takeover.

"Lord, our God, we are thankful for the democratic system in which we live. It does not have a long tradition," said a prayer for "the political situation" issued this week by the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Despite the numerous public expressions of concern, analysts cautioned against exaggerating the impact of a single scandal on the future of West German democracy.

"I think that in the Federal Republic, the standing of politicians and political parties is relatively good compared to other democracies," Karl Dietrich Bracher, professor of political science and contemporary history at the University of Bonn, said in a telephone interview.

The scandal's principal short-term result is likely to be new elections in Schleswig-Holstein, in which the Christian Democrats are expected to fare poorly. A defeat would intensify the political embarrassment for Kohl's party, but would have a relatively small impact on national politics, West German and diplomatic observers said.

The scandal's most prominent victim was Finance Minister Gerhard Stoltenberg, who is also the Christian Democratic party chairman in Schleswig-Holstein. As recently as a year ago, Stoltenberg had been widely mentioned as most likely to succeed Kohl as the Christian Democrats' candidate for chancellor.