EAST BERLIN — Social Democrat leader Ibrahim Boehme, a key figure in East Germany's fledgling democracy, stepped down temporarily today to protest allegations that he spied for the security police.
Boehme, whose party came in second in free elections eight days ago, has hotly denied recent charges that he was an informer for the hated Stasi security police.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting of Social Democratic leaders, Boehme said he will temporarily give up both the party leadership and his seat in the new parliament until his name is cleared.
Charges that deputies in the new parliament were informers for the now defunct Stalinist security force have spread like a virus since the country's first free election.
Although unconfirmed and largely based on anonymous sources, they have scuttled hopes of forming a quick coalition government to steer East Germany toward unification with Bonn.
Lothar de Maiziere, leader of the East German Christian Democrats, which humbled the Social Democrats into a distant second place at the polls, is also alleged to have been a Stasi informer--a suggestion he has dismissed as nonsense.