BONN, AUG. 3 -- West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere proposed today to move up the first all-German elections since World War II by seven weeks, and thus to complete their nations' unification less than a year after the opening of the Berlin Wall.

The summer surprise, which sparked a sizzling political debate in both Germanys, emerged from a secret visit by de Maiziere to Kohl's vacation home in the Austrian Alps Tuesday night.

De Maiziere said joint German elections must be held Oct. 14 instead of Dec. 2 to provide "political clarity and thus economic security."

But opposition parties in both Germanys attacked the proposal as an illegal and cynical campaign tactic that has little to do with helping struggling East Germans. Rather, they said, Kohl and de Maiziere want to force elections before West German voters realize how expensive unification will be and before East Germans discover the extent of the problems caused by the overnight transformation of their centrally planned system into a market-based economy.

The two German leaders, both Christian Democrats, said early elections are necessary because of the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in East Germany, where unemployment is soaring by 40,000 a week and businesses are collapsing in the shakeout since the two German economies merged July 1.

"The people of both parts of Germany would agree that quicker unification now will ease the adjustment difficulties and costs," Kohl said from his summer home.

East German unemployment has jumped from next to zero to more than 250,000 and could rise to 3 million of the population of 16 million, economists say. Western companies have failed to invest heavily in East Germany because of continuing doubts concerning ownership rights there. And East German industries are in limbo, suddenly stripped of their guaranteed markets and incapable of competing with Western firms.

West Germany already is spending almost $16 billion to cover the East German budget deficit this year, and the de Maiziere government asked this week for another $7 billion.

"The only reason for this {early election} tactic is that what everyone suspected is now materializing," said Meinhardt Miegel, director of the Institute for Economic and Social Policy in Bonn. "It is going to cost billions of marks to save East Germany and by Dec. 2, that will be obvious."

It was not clear tonight whether Kohl could push the revised calendar through without the support of the opposition Social Democrats.

Some analysts said the early elections would require a West German constitutional change and thus a two-thirds majority in parliament -- an unlikely event given the storm of protest from opposition parties.

But others said that despite a constitutional requirement that the parliament sit for at least 45 months -- which would make the earliest legal election date Nov. 18 -- Kohl can force an early election through a legal but unseemly maneuver.

"All he has to do is ask for a vote of confidence in the Bundestag {lower house }, have his own party go get a cup of coffee, and lose the vote," said Werner Kaltefleiter, a political scientist who has advised the Christian Democrats. "Then the parliament is dissolved and new elections are held. No problem."

Kohl's principal challenger, Social Democratic candidate Oskar Lafontaine, called the Kohl-de Maiziere proposal "a transparent attempt to manipulate" the constitution in order to improve the chancellor's reelection prospects. Lafontaine said the two Christian Democratic governments are "at the end of their rope" and are desperate to hide the economic and social problems caused by their rush to unity.

Attempting to prove that the early elections are purely a campaign tactic generated by Kohl and not the East Germans, the Social Democrats sent reporters an excerpt from an interview de Maiziere gave only last week, in which he said the Dec. 2 election date must remain because "The people must have some certainty."

The East German Social Democrats, without whom de Maiziere's coalition government would fall, renewed their threat to quit the coalition. Party leader Markus Meckel, who is also the country's foreign minister, called de Maiziere and Kohl's proposal "an affront, an election fraud."

The left-wing ecological party, the Greens, said the Kohl government has gone "totally power-mad" and said they will go to court to seek an injunction against the chancellor's move to advance the election date.

Both German parliaments have scheduled emergency sessions for next week to consider the timing of unification and the all-German vote. West German legislators, who issued their comments on today's proposal from vacation spots from the Canary Islands to the French Riviera, will be fined if they fail to return to Bonn for the session.

Kohl, who has hit a high point in personal popularity in the aftermath of his successful meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev last month, appears to be in no danger of losing his job. A poll in the newsmagazine Der Spiegel said this week that three-quarters of West Germans expect Kohl to win reelection.

But the economic difficulties in the East have frightened Christian Democratic strategists, especially since Lafontaine has based his campaign on the assumption that the true cost of unification will become obvious this fall, stripping Kohl's promise of no new taxes of any credibility.

Tonight, Christian Democratic Union spokesman Andreas Fritzenkoetter said the early vote would not give Kohl any unfair advantage, even if the opposition has seven weeks less to campaign.

Today's proposal was quickly denounced not only by opposition parties, but also by the Soviet Union, which warned that early elections could "disrupt the smooth work" of the four World War II allies who have been negotiating the return of Germany's full sovereignty.

Both Kohl and de Maiziere cited the quick progress of the allied talks and Gorbachev's acceptance of German unity as key reasons for pushing up the date of unification.

But Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri Gremitskikh said in Moscow that his country expects German unity to be completed after the wartime allies finish their talks and after the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe meets in November to ratify the allied agreement.

Kaltefleiter, director of the Institute of Political Science at Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, said Kohl's reelection chances remain strong despite the worsening situation in East Germany. "He will win by a wide margin whatever the election date," he said.

Miegel, the Bonn analyst, agreed, calling today's proposal "a trial balloon. If they face very strong opposition, they will fall back."