East and West Germany signed a historic treaty Thursday establishing voting procedures for the first elections in a unified Germany since Adolf Hitler became chancellor in 1933.
Under the agreement, East Germany will join West Germany's federal republic before the Dec. 2 united elections.
The treaty, signed in East Berlin by East German State Secretary Guenther Krause and West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, also retains a West German provision requiring parties to attain at least 5% of the national vote to gain representation in Parliament. This measure has effectively barred small radical parties on the right and left from membership in the Bonn legislature.
However, small parties will be permitted to join the tickets of other, larger parties, a provision that will benefit East German parties linked to the large West German groupings represented in Parliament.
Schaeuble said that under the new clause, the small groups that led East Germany's peaceful revolution last fall will have "a fair chance."
The biggest beneficiary was expected to be the German Social Union, a right-wing party linked to the Christian Social Union, part of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's governing coalition.
The clearest loser was the Party of Democratic Socialism, successor to East Germany's Communists, which no larger parties want to include. Gregor Gysi, who heads the former Communists, called the accord "election manipulation."
The treaty must be ratified by the two German parliaments.
In the last free elections in a united Germany--in March, 1933--Hitler won a plurality of seats in the Reichstag for the National Socialists, or Nazis. After Hitler took power, the Nazis became the sole legal party.
Meanwhile, there was growing pressure for full unification well ahead of the Dec. 2 balloting.
West Germany's Free Democrats, the junior partner in Kohl's government, suggested that unification should be moved forward to this fall.
Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen, the party's general secretary, told Die Welt newspaper that East Germany should join West Germany as soon as possible, because of East Germany's financial problems.
"The quicker, the better--if possible on Oct. 14," she was quoted as saying. Oct. 14 is the date set for East German elections that will create five state governments to mirror West Germany's federal system. East Germany has yet to set a date for merger with West Germany.