East Germany's Parliament today added eight members of pro-democracy groups to Communist Premier Hans Modrow's government, giving the opposition seats in the Cabinet for the first time in the country's 40-year history.
Also today, Parliament banned the ultra-right Republican Party of West Germany from operating in East Germany. The party had been hoping to attract major voter support during upcoming elections.
Nine new ministers, all from opposition parties and movements, were sworn in by acting head of state Manfred Gerlach shortly after legislators voted overwhelmingly in favor of their appointments.
The Communist Party now holds 17 of 36 seats in the new government. Besides those given to the pro-democracy forces, the other seats are held by parties once aligned with the Communists.
Parliament today barred the Republicans, neo-Nazi groups and other right-wing extremists from trying to spread their doctrines and beliefs in East Germany. A resolution said "immediate measures are needed for the protection of the state and its citizens" because of the activities of neo-Nazis and Republicans.
It said there have recently been threats of "violent acts" that "seriously threatened the process of renewal" in East Germany.
The Republicans are a legal party in West Germany, and during the past year they have been able to win seats in a number of state legislatures and local governing bodies.
On Sunday, the Communist Party changed its name and promised to hand over $600 million in assets to the government in an attempt to refurbish its image before the elections. The first free balloting in the country's history is set for March 18.
Earlier today, both opposition leaders and the Communists discouraged West German politicians from stumping for East German candidates. At round-table negotiations, 10 of the 22 participants said West German politicians should not be invited to be guest speakers at election rallies.
Former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt has already led a campaign rally for the East German Social Democrats and had planned further appearances. Chancellor Helmut Kohl has also said he was planning to stump for candidates.
The Communists especially have objected to the plans, saying such appearances amount to unfair interference in East German affairs.
Also today, East Germany, resisting growing pressure for speedy economic and monetary union with West Germany to save its crippled economy, appealed instead for emergency aid from Bonn.
Economics Minister Christa Luft, speaking at round-table talks between government parties and opposition groups, appealed for an immediate grant of between 10 billion and 15 billion marks ($6 billion and $9 billion) from West Germany.
She said the issue of replacing the country's non-convertible currency with the mighty West German mark should be decided in a referendum on political unification of the two states.