BONN, West Germany--Chancellor Helmut Kohl dropped plans yesterday to advance all-German elections by six weeks, a major political defeat for the leader who until now had set the pace of German unification.
Still uncertain, however, was whether formal unity would proceed on Oct. 14 apart from parliamentary elections, now set for Dec. 2. Kohl and East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere had wanted to hold elections and declare unity the same day.
Kohl's decision followed a day-long parliamentary debate in which the opposition Social Democrats insisted they would not give him the two-thirds majority necessary for a constitutional change needed to move up elections.
In addition, the East German parliament failed Thursday to approve new electoral rules for an Oct. 14 election.
Also Thursday, Kohl said the cost of bailing out beleaguered East Germany is exceeding expectations.
Up until yesterday, Kohl had been able to set the pace of unity more or less according to his own plans to ensure continued control for his conservative coalition in the new Germany.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble announced Kohl's change in position during a meeting of the "German Unity" committee of government ministers, according to participants who spoke later on condition of anonymity.
The West German Social Democrats welcomed abandonment of what they termed Kohl's and de Maiziere's "nonsensical" plan for elections and unity Oct. 14.
A spokesperson for the East German Social Democrats said the party was "pleased to see Dec. 2 confirmed as the date for all-German elections."
"It is not an earlier election date but quick unity that creates the necessary framework...for secure investments," said Social Democrats spokesperson Juergen Itzfeldt.
The Social Democrats demand unity first, then elections Dec. 2.
West Germany has previously said that unity should not occur before the Sept. 12 meeting in Moscow of the four World War II allies and the two Germanys to wrap up the "two-plus-four" talks on international aspects of German unity.
The two Germanys are finishing work on a unification treaty that paves the way for the legal merger of the two countries. It is expected to be finished by late August or early September.
Kohl had also hoped to have a treaty regulating all-German elections ratified by both Parliaments by last night.
But the measure just barely failed to get the needed two-thirds majority in the East German parliament, and West German lawmakers decided to postpone their own vote until Aug. 23. East German lawmakers are to consider the measure again Aug. 22.