- Legal expert, scholar and Liberal, Hugo Preuss wrote the first draft of the constitution. He attempted to build on the traditions of German politics as well as balance power between the different institutions of the state.
- After much debate, the constitution was adopted on 31st July 1919.
- The new constitution created the Reich as a parliamentary democracy with the Chancellor and cabinet needing majority support in the Reichstag. The Reich was to be a combination of 18 states.
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- The constitution provided for a strong executive in the form of a president. The whole electorate elected the president for seven years.
- If no candidate in a presidential election won an absolute majority on the first ballot, a second election took place in which the winner was the candidate who won the biggest share of the vote.
- The president was the head of state and commander-in –chief of the armed forces. Under article 48, the president had emergency powers to suspend individual rights and take whatever measures were necessary to restore order.
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- One of the main features of the Weimar Constitution was article 48. In a time of national security or crisis, often decision couldn’t be made quick enough in the Reichstag as there were many small party’s with different views.
- Article 48 allowed the president to make quick decisions when they were needed. This allowed him to rule by decree and override the Reichstag, to suspend civil rights and to deploy the military.
- However the ability to dismiss the views of the Reichstag over a prolonged period meant it wasn’t a democratic system as was the point of he Weimar Republic. It effectively allowed one man to act as an autocrat and rule without consulting anyone.
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- The Reichsrat was the upper and less important legislature. The Reichsrat represented the 17 Lander of states in the law making process. It could block or undo laws passed by the Reichstag, but the latter could override a Reichsrat veto by passing a measure of 2/3s majority.
- Each state had one vote in the Reichsrat for every 700,000 of its inhabitants. Members of their state government represented states in the Reichsrat. There were 17 states or Lander in all Bavaria, Saxony, Wurttemberg, Baden, Thuringia, Hesse, Hamburg, Mecklenburg- Schwerin, Oldenburg, Brunswick, Anhalt, Bremen, Lippe, Lubeck, Waldeck, Schaumberg-Lippe and Prussia.
- Each state or Land was responsible for its own educational and judicial system and for its own police service. Each state had its own law-making body or Landtag and each had its own government. Laws passed by the Landtag if these two were conflict
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The Reich Chancellor
- The Reich Chancellor presided over the government. The Reich Chancellor and the Reich ministers were under article 54 of the constitution accountable to the Reichstag and had to resign if they lost the Reichstag’s confidence.
- The Reichstag was the lower and more important house of the legislature or law making body Elected for 4 years at a time by proportional representation. Proportional representation is a type of voting system where seats are given in proportion to the votes cast.
- This voting system elected representatives in line with the wishes of the people. This system allowed minority opinions to be represented and this seemed fair to everyone and democratic.
- However proportional representation id cause some problems for the Weimar government because it made it difficult for anyone party to maintain a majority and led to frequent changes in government. This in the end led to the overuse of undemocratic parts of the constitution such as article 48.
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The Bill of Rights
Another feature of the Weimar constitution was the Bill of rights, whichcontained clauses guaranteeing individual rights such as the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.
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