Monday, February 27, 2012

German Reunification of 1990

After 45 years of separation, Germany was reunified in 1990, less than a year after the dramatic fall of the Berlin wall.

In 1945, just after World War II, the defeated Germany was reduced in size and the remainder was divided among the four principal allies: Britain, France, the United States (USA) and the Soviet Union (USSR). It was intended to be a temporary arrangement until the reunification of the country. This temporary arrangement was to remain for 45 years.

Power Politics and Fear of a United Germany

Due to her central position in Europe, Germany was very important in post second world war power politics. Both the West and the Soviets wanted her under their own influence and therefore were reluctant to dispense with the control they had. The West wanted a unified Germany based on free elections while the Soviets wanted a Germany under their control. However, some parties in the West, especially the French, were apprehensive of the reunification of Germany, because of their knowledge that they would be weaker than a unified Germany. Her recent agonies at the hands of the Germans in two wars were still not distant memories.

In 1946, when the Americans wanted to bring the four zones in to a common economic zone, the French chose to disagree based on this apprehension. Naturally, the USSR also disagreed. Thus the Bizonia was born with the economic unification of U.S. and British sectors.

However, in 1948, with the Czechoslovak coup, the French realized the larger threat from the East and chose to agree to the lesser evil, that of a unified Germany. With the three zones joined economically, Trizonia was born.

Germany East and West

Introduction of monetary reform in Trizonia led to the Berlin blockade which ended in 1949 with a Western victory. In May 1949, Trizonia was declared an independent federal republic, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). In the following October, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was declared in the Soviet sector.

For many years FRG enjoyed wide diplomatic recognition whereas the GDR was recognized only by the socialist camp. The GDR economy was based on the Stalinist model which did not help the country. In June 1953, the workers rioted against the “workers’ state”. Soon economic difficulties and political repression was forcing thousands to leave the GDR through the still open city of Berlin.

To stop this emigration, the GDR authorities erected die Berliner Mauer, the Berlin Wall, on August 13, 1961.

Berlin Wall Falls

Although they were virtually prisoners of their regime, the Germans in the GDR were not totally ignorant of the life in the FRG. Radio and even television signals coming from the West could be picked up and many people had relatives in the West. The fact that they enjoyed a better standard of living than other Eastern Europeans did not matter for the GDR citizens because they were aware of a much better life across the wall and the border fences.

The wave of reform sweeping through Eastern Europe had a direct effect on the GDR when Hungary opened her borders. GDR citizens wanted to leave. As the regime was celebrating its fortieth anniversary in Berlin, it was crumbling on the streets across of the country. With Gorbachev’s USSR not willing to intervene to protect the communists, they had no ally. The replacement of the long standing leader Erich Honecker on October 18 came far too late to save the regime. Its fate was sealed on November 9, 1989, as the Berlin wall fell.

Last Days of the GDR

With the Communist Socialist Unity Party (SED) out of power, the GDR prepared for its first and what turned out to be the only democratic election. On March 18, 1990, East German Christian Democrats, with the support of the FRG Chancellor Helmut Kohl, swept the polls whereas the former Communists polled only 16% of the votes. Lothar de Maiziere became the first and only democratically elected prime Minister of the GDR.

Two months later, on May 18, the FRG and GDR signed a treaty by which they agreed upon monetary, economic and social union between the states. On July 1, 1990, the Deutsche Mark was introduced to the GDR replacing the East German Mark. With the economies and societies linked, the political reunification became just a formality. The reunification treaty was signed on August 31, to be ratified by the legislatures of both countries with vast majorities. On October 3, 1990, Germany was reunited officially.

Sources

Cyril E. Black, Jonathan E. Helmreich, Paul C. Helmreich, Charles P. Issawi, A. James McAdams. Rebirth: A History of Europe Since World War Two, Westview Press (1992)

Mills, Clifford W., Angela Merkel, Chelsea House, NY (2008)

Taylor, Frederick. The Berlin Wall: A World Divided. Harper Collins (2007)

Opening of the Berlin Wall and Unification

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Controversial Salvadoran Presidential Election of 1972

El Salvador, a small Central American country, was ruled by various military governments, with the support of the rich oligarchs, from 1932 until 1984. However, the military attempted to give the regime a democratic face to mollify public opinion. In the 1960s, opposition political parties were allowed to participate in the electoral process. Soon, several parties were to appear, including the largest opposition party at the time, the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). Meanwhile, the government had formed an official party, the National Conciliation Party (PCN).

In 1968, the National Assembly elections saw the opposition parties winning 25 out of 52 seats with the PDC winning 19. In 1970 however, the opposition seats fell by seven to 18, with the PDC winning 16. The decline of the opposition was not due to any improvement in the Salvadorian people’s lives but a result of the popularity of the regime due to the so-called ‘Soccer War’ of 1969.

In late 1960s, two political parties had sprung up in the opposition camp. One of them was the Revolutionary National Movement (MNR), a moderately leftwing party affiliated to the Socialist International, despite its ‘revolutionary’ name. The other, the Nationalist Democratic Union (UDN), was closely associated to the proscribed Salvadoran Communist Party (PCS), despite its more moderate name. The Secretary General of the MNR was Guillermo Manuel Ungo, the son of one of the founders of the PDC.

In September 1971, the PDC, MNR and UDN declared the intention of forming a coalition, the National Opposition Union (UNO). The PDC had opposed engaging in coalitions throughout its decade in existence. Yet, especially after the setback in the 1970 National Assembly and local elections, they recognized that the greatest obstacle the opposition was facing was its own disunity. With a much larger following than her two junior partners, the PDC wished to work inside the UNO from an advantageous position. Furthermore, they had Jose Napoleon Duarte, by far the most popular opposition figure, in their ranks. Duarte was chosen as the presidential candidate of the UNO while he chose Ungo as his running mate.

General Fidel Sanchez Hernandez chose his presidential chief of staff Colonel Arturo Armando Molina as the PCN candidate. Meanwhile, two people representing the oligarchs also ran for the presidency. The landed oligarchs were represented by the ‘Soccer War’ hero, General Jose Alberto Medrano, while those engaged in industries and commerce supported Jose Antonio Rodriguez Porth.

However, from the onset, the contest was between Molina and Duarte. Both the PCN and the UNO launched vigorous campaigns. In December 1971, the Duarte campaign caravan was shot at by unidentified assailants and the driver of the leading car died. But it was the only physical attack on the UNO during the campaign.

Meanwhile, other attacks on the UNO continued. The PCN camp viciously attacked the credentials of Duarte and Ungo, accusing them (as the military had almost always accused their opposition) of being communists. Furthermore, the UNO tickets for the six larger departments of El Salvador for the National Assembly elections scheduled for March 1972 were disqualified on a technicality. The government could be almost certain on winning the presidency. In the case of any candidate not being able to obtain 50% of the votes, the president was to be elected by the National Assembly. With the Assembly elections more than two weeks away, the PCN had a majority in that body to ensure that Molina will be president. But, understandably, they were worried about the Assembly elections on March 12. If Molina was not to get enough support, the opposition would have been in an advantageous position during the Assembly election. The disqualification of the UNO lists took care of that also.

Election Day, February 20, 1972

The election went on with no major incident and the turnout was high. As the first results were being released, Molina took an early lead. However, Duarte took two thirds of votes in San Salvador. It was there that almost a third of all eligible voters lived. The government at once stopped releasing results. Later it was announced that Molina won the election with 334,600 (43.42%) against Duarte’s 324,756 (42.14%). The UNO alleged that it was Duarte who actually won with about 9,500 votes more than Molina. However, it did not matter as no one had obtained 50% of the vote. The National Assembly duly elected Molina as president of El Salvador on February 25, 1972.

National Assembly Elections, March 12, 1972

The UNO had another trump card to play. According to Salvadoran election law, defaced ballot papers were considered to be null votes and if these exceeded half the total votes cast, the election could be declared null. The UNO asked their supporters in San Salvador to do precisely this at the March 12 elections. More than half of the voters (almost 75,000 out of 144,101) who cast their votes heeded this call. The UNO asked the San Salvador Department elections office to nullify the election and it did so on March 23. The Central Elections Council (CCE) promptly overturned that decision.

Coup d’├ętat: March 25, 1972

The immediate result of the election controversies was the military coup led by Colonel Benjamin Mejia. The rebel troops quickly took San Salvador and took President Sanchez into custody. Then Mejia announced the ‘triumph of the military youth’ on national radio. However, this was premature as the Air Force and the National Guard turned against the coup. The National Guard converged on the capital and the coup turned into a bloody battle for the capital. Duarte, who had gone on air on national radio asking the people to support the rebels, sought sanctuary in the residence of Venezuelan Embassy’s first secretary. He was found and taken away by the government forces. Strong pressure from Venezuela may have saved the lives of the rebel leaders including Duarte. They were exiled and Molina was inaugurated as the president on July 1, 1972.

Reference

Montgomery, T.S. Revolution in El Salvador: From Civil Strife to Civil Peace, Westview Press, 2nd ed. 1995.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

East vs West: All-German Encounter in Football World Cup 1974

The only professional international football match between East Germany and West Germany was played in the World Cup of 1974.

The FIFA world cup of 1974 was held in West Germany across nine cities. The host nation was drawn in Group One along with Chile and new comers Australia and East Germany. The city of Hamburg was to hold the first and what turned out to be the only East-West German professional international ever.

East and West: A Comparison of German Teams

West Germany was the reigning European champions. With players of the likes of Beckenbauer, Breitner, Overath, the ever dangerous Mueller and goalkeeper Maier they were a formidable outfit and were playing on home soil too. They were coached by veteran coach Helmut Shoen.

The East Germans were comparatively inexperienced in professional international level, even though they had done well in Munich Summer Olympics in 1972. Their football, as well as every other aspect of life, was under the influence of the Ministry of State Security (MfS, commonly known as the Stasi) and the communist regime. The Stasi minister Erich Mielke was an ardent football fan and therefore the domestic league was heavily manipulated by him. This did not help the development of a good domestic league.

Countdown to the Game: Preliminary Round

West Germany opened their world cup with a lackluster performance against Chile to the utter disappointment of the home crowd. This prompted them to attack in full force at the hapless Aussies but the 3-0 win was not convincing enough. However, they had by then advanced to the next round.

East Germany started well with a 2-0 victory against the Australians and then drew the match with Chile. But since the Aussie-Chilean match was drawn, by the time the East-West game started, they also had advanced. (Before 1986, the practice of staging the last games of a group simultaneously was not started.)

However, a victory was important for both teams. Helmut Shoen, the West German coach who was born in Dresden wanted his team to win. Beckenbauer would say “we are playing this for Shoen.” For the East German regime, which was trying to prove that they were better than the Westerners in anything, this was a political issue also.

The Match……

The game started at 19:30 hours (Central European Time) at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg in front of 60,350 spectators including a group of 2,000 ‘loyal’ East German supporters, carefully selected by the communist regime. The players themselves were somewhat confused as to how to behave in such an encounter. First half did not produce a goal despite both teams having chances. Mueller hit the post once and the East Germans missed an open goal.

In the second half, West Germany dominated the game but it was a break at the other end which allowed Juergen Sparwasser to score in the 77th minute, instantly transforming him to an East German legend. The stadium went quiet except for the 2,000 East Germans chanting “sieben, acht, neun, zhen, Klasse” (seven, eight, nine, ten, (top) class) while frantically waving their flags. For the remainder of the game the East Germans managed to defend their lead despite everything their opponent threw at them and won the game.

...and the Aftermath

Helmut Shoen was considerably demoralized by his team's defeat and Beckenbauer had to step in to the void during the remainder of their world cup. Their fans were totally disappointed also. However as the then Dutch captain Cruyff would say at a later time, “Every disadvantage has an advantage” and the West Germans went on to prove it. Their defeat meant that they were the second of the group behind the East Germans. Therefore, the Germans did not meet the Dutch powerhouse until the final. They became better and better as the tournament progressed and ultimately won it. Meanwhile, the East Germans were eliminated at the second round.

In the long term, the East Germans never consented to another East-West game to preserve their clean record. They preserved it successfully but could not preserve their communist regime which finally disappeared from the face of Earth. With the reunification of Germany in 1990, the East German football team disappeared also and the East German football federation was amalgamated to the German Football Federation.

Sources

1. Glenn Phillips and Tim Oldham, World Cup '98, London (1998)

2. FourFourTwo, December 2009