Flashcards in Was The Weimar Constitution Flawed? Deck (17)
What initially happened when the kaiser abdicated?
The monarchy had fallen and it was unclear what sort of government would be set up in its place.
On the same day that the kaiser abdicated, the kaisers last chancellor, prince max von Baden, handed over the chancellorship to friedrich Ebert, leader of the SPD
Ebert then set up a provisional government. The main task of this was to organise elections to a new, temporary body- a National Assembly. Members of this assembly would then draw up and agree on a constitution
What did the National Assembly agree on?
In August 1919, the assembly agreed on a document whose aim, according to Mann, was to convert the authoritarian rule of the past into a system which had tight democratic controls
Who argues that the new constitution had four main planks and what were they?
- Germany was to remain a federal nation, although some decisions would be made centrally, individual states 'länder' would still have their own governments and be responsible for decisions
- Germany was to have a strong president, directly elected for seven year terms by the people
- national elections to the reichstag would be conducted using a system of proportional representation
- the rights of German citizens would be clearly laid out for the first time
What did preuss hope for from being a federal nation?
That Germany would be transformed into a unitary state, however he was unable to persuade the assembly to adopt his proposals
In terms of the länder, what happened when Germany remained a federal nation?
They lost some powers:
Certain privileges in taxation, rail and postal services and military affairs that had been enjoyed by some southern states were abolished
Police, judges and school teachers were employed by state governments rather than by authorities in Berlin
How often was the president elected?
Every seven years
The president was given the power to: (4)
Commend armed forces
Appoint and dismiss the chancellor
Dissolve parliament and order new elections
What did article 48 do?
Gave president special emergency powers. It allowed the president to use armed force against any land which failed to abide by the laws of the reich
Allowed president to make laws which came into effect regardless of the views of the reichstag. If the reichstag objected to a measure, the president could simply dissolve it and call for new elections
Explain proportional representation
National elections were conducted under a new system of proportional representation.
Germany was divided into 35 large electoral districts. The number of votes cast in a district for a party determined how many candidates from the list were sent to the reichstag
Every 60,000 votes = 1 seat
All men and women above the age of 20 were eligible to vote
The guarantee of basic rights?
Special section of the new constitution outlines the basic rights to be enjoyed by the German citizens
Guaranteed local self-government and the position of the permanent civil service, protected the rights of religious denominations and defined the basic structure of the system of education
A series of specific provisions were built including safety measures for workers, welfare insurance, labour exchanges
The constitution set up a second chamber, the reichsrat , made up of representatives from the länder.
It had limited power as it could only offer advice, reject legislation or call for a referendum. It could not propose or amend legislation.
In some circumstances it was possible for ordinary people to force the government to hold a referendum
Referendums could be called by the president and the reichsrat
Weaknesses of proportional representation?
Extremely difficult for small, extremist parties to gain election to parliament
Using the first-past-the-post system, an extremist party might win 30,001 votes but that would not guarantee them representation in parliament
It made coalition governments inevitable, which are prone to collapse. The electoral system is therefore blamed for producing weak leaderships
Weakness of the reichstag and the presidency?
The fact that both the reichstag and president were directly elected resulted in destabilisation as it was unclear who was the ultimate source of authority in the Republic
Strengths of reichstag and the presidency
Peukert points out that Ebert proved to be a stabilising force during the crisis of post war years
Strengths and weaknesses of article 48?
Has been argues that is gave the president a tool for bypassing the reichstag
Some say it was not the constitution that was at fault but the people using it