"Wall peckers" in Berlin, 10 November 1989. People started tearing down the Berlin Wall on their own. Official demolition began at Potsdamer Platz in November 1989, and continued from 20 February 1990 between the Brandenburg Gate and the border post at Checkpoint Charlie.
Source: Bundesregierung/Uwe Rau

The first free elections in the GDR

In January 1990 GDR prime minister Hans Modrow, concerned that the situation would become unstable, proposed that opposition parties and civil rights alliances should participate in government. Elections for the GDR parliament were due in May, but due to public pressure for action the date was put forward to 18 March.

Newly founded political organisations close to the traditional West German parties, the SPD, CDU and FDP, had an advantage in the election campaign. The West gave them organisational and financial support and sent helpers.

Several parties and movements with similar goals formed coalitions to boost their electoral chances. New Forum, the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights, and Democracy Now created the coalition Alliance 90. The CDU, Christian Social Union (CSU) and Democratic Awakening formed Alliance for Germany, relying on a popular manifesto promising monetary Union.

A large variety of parties and groups stood for the People’s Chamber elections, covering the GDR with election posters – a new experience for the East German population.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Plakatsammlung
A large variety of parties and groups stood for the People’s Chamber elections, covering the GDR with election posters – a new experience for the East German population.
Source: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V., Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik, Plakatsammlung
A large variety of parties and groups stood for the People’s Chamber elections, covering the GDR with election posters – a new experience for the East German population.
Source: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V., Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik, Plakatsammlung
A large variety of parties and groups stood for the People’s Chamber elections, covering the GDR with election posters – a new experience for the East German population.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Plakatsammlung
A large variety of parties and groups stood for the People’s Chamber elections, covering the GDR with election posters – a new experience for the East German population.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Plakatsammlung
Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl supporting the East German CDU's election campaign on 20 February 1990 in Erfurt. Political parties in the GDR, like the Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Liberals, were close to traditional West German parties and received support from the West.
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1990-0220-032/Heinz Hirndorf
Willy Brandt, former West German chancellor and SPD politician, at an SPD meeting in Potsdam on 11 March 1990. In the election campaign the East German parties relied most of all on popular politicians from West Germany.
Source: Hans-Peter Stiebing
In the run-up to the People's Chamber elections, a coalition of liberal parties in the GDR, the Union of Free Democrats, was formed. The West German foreign minister and FDP politician Hans-Dietrich Genscher is shown here at a Union of Free Democrats election rally on 28 February 1990 in Erfurt.
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1990-0228-030/Heinz Hirndorf
Some parties formed coalitions in the election campaign. New Forum, the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights, and Democracy Now created Bündnis 90 (Alliance 90). However, Alliance for Germany, the coalition of CDU, German Social Union and Democratic Awakening, offered voters the chance to choose the individual parties as well.
Source: Bundesarchiv/1990/0312/21N
In early February 1990, the Central Round Table proposed that politicians from West Berlin and West Germany should not be invited as guest speakers in the election campaign. The proposal was meant to prevent disadvantaging the contesting parties, and to restrict influence from the West; but people ignored it.
Source: Berliner Zeitung, 17./18.2.1990

Election results

With an unusually high turnout, over 90%, the result was clear. The Alliance won just over 50% of the votes, which meant the majority of the population had voted for rapid reunification.

Waiting for exit polls in the GDR's first free elections, 18 March 1990. In front of the Palace of the Republic, outside broadcast vans from every major German and foreign TV station showed that the world was watching.
Source: Rolf Zöllner
East German parliamentary election, 18 March 1990.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Graphik eckedesign
Lothar de Maizière, the East German CDU's top candidate, on the night of the People's Chamber elections.
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1990-0318-046/Klaus Oberst
Jens Reich, a member of New Forum, in an election-night interview with Michael Schmitz from the West German TV channel ZDF. The parties and movements that had emerged in autumn 1989 were the losers in the GDR's first free elections.
Source: Bundesregierung/Lehnartz
The new GDR government was formed on 12 April 1990 from a grand coalition of Alliance for Germany, SPD and Liberals. The chairman of the East German CDU, Lothar de Maizière (1st row, 3rd from r.), became prime minister.
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/Wolfgang Kumm
East German local elections, 6 May 1990.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Graphik eckedesign
On 6 May 1990, the first free local elections were held in the GDR. The photo shows a polling station in Pankow, Berlin. Voter turnout was very high at around 80%.
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/Wolfgang Eilmes
On 6 May 1990, almost a year after the fraudulent local elections, the first free local elections were held in the GDR. Voter turnout was around 80%, similar to the People’s Chamber elections.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Plakatsammlung
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