An article yesterday about German state elections misidentified the party that won a majority of votes in Bavaria. It is the Christian Social Union party. (Published 10/16/90)
BONN, OCT. 14 -- The former citizens of East Germany today set aside concerns about soaring unemployment and a painful transition to a market economy and stood loyally by Helmut Kohl, the chancellor who brought them into the West.
In elections in the five new German states of what used to be East Germany, voters overwhelmingly chose members of Kohl's Christian Democratic party to create and run new governments charged with decentralizing and trimming the former Communist bureaucracy. For the opposition Social Democratic Party, the vote meant the loss of its one claim to power in the united Germany -- its majority in the legislature's upper house, whose members are appointed by the state governments.
Kohl and his party received a further political boost today in Bavaria, in what was West Germany, where the Social Democrats suffered their most massive electoral defeat since World War II.
The Christian Democrats won a majority in Bavaria, in the west. In the five new eastern states, they defeated the Social Democrats by about 44 percent to 25 percent. The former Communists, now known as the Party of Democratic Socialism, won 11 percent of the vote in the east.
Christian Democratic party secretary Volker Ruehe called the result a "great vote of confidence" for Kohl, whose next test comes on Dec. 2, when candidates will run for seats in the lower house of Parliament and when Kohl is expected again to be his party's candidate for chancellor.
As he did in East Germany's first free elections in March, Kohl campaigned heavily in the east, promising that a quick but not painless economic revolution would follow last year's political turnabout. Before today's vote, Kohl was leading Social Democratic challenger Oskar Lafontaine in national popularity polls, 57 percent to 38 percent.
Lafontaine's party failed in all but one state to find support among ex-East Germans, who despite traditional socialist leanings in some regions demonstrated their continued disapproval of the Social Democrats' lukewarm attitude toward German unification early this year.
"In seven weeks, everything can look completely different," Lafontaine said in a reference to the upcoming national vote.
The Social Democrats' only victory came in the new state of Brandenburg, where Manfred Stolpe, a church leader and longtime dissident, defeated Peter-Michael Diestel, a young Christian Democrat who had suffered from accusations that he protected members of the Stasi secret police while serving as a minister in East Germany's short-lived post-Communist government.
There were no residence requirements for candidates in the eastern elections, and many voters, apparently anxious to consider themselves part of the former West Germany, elected West Germans to local positions.
Today's winners will have to create from scratch the state governments that control most aspects of public life under the decentralized West German federal system. They must now take control of everything from police forces to schools to transportation, all of which were run from Berlin under East Germany's Communist regime.