Monday, March 19, 2012

March 18

In an earlier blog I referred to the 9th of November being a fateful day for Germans. Yesterday the Federal Assembly met in the Berlin Reichstag to elect a new German President. In welcoming the 1240 delegates the speaker of the German parliament (Bundestagspr√§sident) suggested holding any future election of Germany's highest representative on March 18, and not as in the past on May 23, the Constitution Day of the Federal Republic.

In fact, on March 18, 1793, German revolutionaries supported by French revolutionary forces proclaimed the first republic on German soil, the Republic of Mainz.

Berlin March 18, 1848
On March 18, 1848, people all over Germany rose up against their princely rulers and manned barricades to underline their Märzforderungen (demands of March) for freedom of the press, jury trials and free election of an all-German parliament.

On March 18, 1990, the first free elections in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) were at the same time the last in East Germany as the so called Volkskammer (the peoples' chamber) decided to join the West German Federal Republic. Following general elections in all of Germany on October 3, the same year this date, the Unification Day, became our national holiday.

This year the Federal President was elected on March 18, and not on May 23. This had to do with our constitution demanding that in case a president dies or steps down from office the Federal Assembly must meet within 60 days to elect a successor. It happened that March 18, 2012, in itself became a somewhat historic date because two presidents had resigned before finishing their five-year terms. Hence the Federal Assembly that usually comes together only once every five years had to meet three times within a span of three years.

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