`Stasi Links' Fail to Halt Communist Power Bid

Article excerpt

THE MAIN political parties in Berlin are making frantic last- ditch attempts to keep the increasingly popular reformed communists out of power in the city elections on Sunday.

The Party of Democratic Socialism is presenting itself as a powerbroker in Berlin, despite controversy surrounding its candidate for mayor. Gregor Gysi, 58, who heads the local PDS, faces allegations of links with the East German secret police, the Stasi. But he is still expected to pick up nearly a fifth of the votes.

He could ease himself into power by saying sorry for all the ills the PDS had perpetrated in its previous incarnation as the communist party.

But his refusal to say the magic word has galvanised other parties into forming an alliance to block him.

The mayoral race has become dominated by the history of the city and the Berlin Wall. The communists within the PDS have been reluctant to apologise for the deaths of 1,000 East Germans who tried to escape over it. Mr Gysi said: "I was 13 when the Wall was built. I joined the party in 1967. So I'm not guilty for the building of the Wall. It is only our political opponents who want us to apologise, not the victims."

Mr Gysi has accused his "political opponents" - namely the parties based in western Germany - of dwelling too much in the past. He said the legacy of the past 11 years, during which the PDS was deliberately excluded from power, was a debt mountain of DM75bn (pounds 24bn), an unemployment rate of 15 per cent, and continued division. "The inner unity of the city has still not been achieved," he declared. "The two parties that have run Berlin have failed."

The Christian Democrats and Social Democrats have governed the city alone or together since reunification, shunning the largest party of East Berlin, the PDS. …