Weimar Constitution

  • In January 1919 proper elections across the 18 states of Germany took place
  • After voting the new parliament met in the town of Weimar because Berlin was still too unstable from the rioters and protestors who had forced the abidication of the Kaiser – there was still much fighting on the streets of Berlin

    The German Town of Weimar
  • Ebert, the temporary President, who was one of those who signed the armistice (surrender), was formally elected as President

    Friedrich Ebert
  • The new Weimar Republic set up a new constitution (system of rules by which a country is governed)
  • PRESIDENT = Elected every 7 years, the President had the power to appoint the Chancellor, the President was in charge of the army, Article 48 gave the President emergency powers to make laws without asking an elected body such as a parliament
  • THE CHANCELLOR = Closest equivalent is a prime minister. He was in charge of the day-to-day running of the country and as such was involved with all government departments such as law and order, education, economy, transport etc. The Chancellor had to have the majority support of the Reichstag to be successful, therefore the President had to choose the Chancellor wisely
  • THE REICHSTAG = Equivalent to the House of Commons, the Reichstag was essentially the German equivalent of a parliament, members had the power to pass or reject changes in the law, they were elected by PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION every 4 yrs

    The Reichstag Building
  • THE GERMAN PEOPLE = All adults over the age of 20 could vote for the President and members of the Reichstag, they had freedom of speech, to travel wherever they wanted to go, to hold political meetings that criticised the government and freedom of religious belief

PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION

  • Both a strength and weakness of the Weimar Republic
  • Strength = the system ensured that all political parties, however small, had a fair share of seats in the Reichstag
  • Weaknesses  = the very fact that a political party, however small, could get a percentage of the votes and therefore seats in the parliament really encouraged people to set up their own parties, a lot of these, however, tended to be small extremist groups such as the Nazis. This then meant that the Reichstag (parliament) was made up of lots and lots of different political parties each with a few seats, but none of them large enough to secure a majority of seats and be in overall charge. In order to get a majority and someone in charge, several smaller parties had to join together to form a coalition government. Coalition governments are often weak and short-lived because the parties that make them up find it difficult to agree, or at the very least it takes them longer to agree on a decision

OTHER WEAKNESSES

  • Everyone had the freedom to criticise the government – so they did!
  • The army and judiciary (judges) weren’t reformed in any way. They had previously been big supporters of the Kaiser and hated the new republic. They were pretty much left alone and as such continued to undermine the new republic
  • Article 48 gave the President too much power