East Germans Vote in Crucial Election
EAST BERLIN (AP) _ East Germans voted Sunday in a free election made possible by their pro- democracy revolution, and the ballots they cast were expected to decide the pace of the drive toward reunification.
In a last-minute warning, opposition parties alleged that former secret police may vote more than once to prop up Communist candidates.
About 12.2 million voters were eligible to cast ballots for a 400-seat Parliament. With the likelihood of a merger with West Germany, the balloting could have been the 41-year-old nation’s first and last free election.
West German television was expected to make its first projections two hours after polls close at 6 p.m. (noon EST).
Final results weren’t expected until Monday.
Hans Modrow, Communist premier of East Germany’s caretaker government, was among the early-risers to go to the polls. Modrow was greeted with applause when he showed up at a polling site in East Berlin.
″The last days and weeks have shown that the citizens of the GDR see this election as very important for the country’s further development,″ Modrow said, according to East Germany’s ADN news agency.
Modrow repeated his belief that the process of German unification cannot be separated from what happens in the rest of Europe, said ADN.
″Only then, if we proceed with level-headedness, will people in Europe be able to have a good opinion of us. And that is the responsibility we are carrying,″ ADN quoted him as saying.
Voters chose from a dizzying array of 24 parties and groups. All major parties support unification but at a different pace. Some conservative parties urge a quick merger, while leftist groups favor a more cautious approach. Most East Germans agree such a joining is inevitable.
International election observers fanned out to monitor the balloting.
In East Berlin, 10 members of an election-monitoring delegation from the Council of Europe started headed for their destinations in various parts of East Germany. ″The group wants to visit as many voting places as possible,″ delegation head Sir Geoffrey Finsberg of Britain was quoted as saying by ADN.
Most polling places opened at 7 a.m., but many industrial workers were permitted to start voting two hours earlier, just before they went to work.
Juergen Myrau, an engineer at the Buna chemical factory near Halle, showed up to vote shortly after the 5 a.m. poll-opening time. ″It’s a great feeling to go to a free election,″ ADN quoted Myrau as saying.
Wolfgang Koegel, an employee at a power plant in Suhl, a southwestern city near the West German border, was the first to vote in his district.
″No one really knows who’s going to b elected. But by all means I am for a better future, especially when I think about my two children,″ he told ADN.
Like other countries in the Soviet bloc, East Germany’s political landscape was redrawn last year by a pro-democracy revolution that ousted its hard-line Communist leadership. In the upheaval that followed, hundreds of thousands of East Germans fled to the West, the Berlin Wall was opened and reunification became a rallying cry in East and West Germany.