The Weakness of Weimar – April 22, 2013

by aem00

In the Weimar Republic, the traditional political and bureaucratic elites were stripped of almost all their power. They reformed the Reichstag and made the cabinet responsible. Elections were conducted through proportional representation which gave parties a share of the seats equal to their percentage of the vote. This made it easy for extremist parties to get their foot in Parliament. This polarized the party system and left the Weimar fragmented. Few politicians gave the new system their full support and it created a deep wedge in politics. This created bad governance and many people sought to find a scapegoat for the problems of Germany. Many small nationalist movements sprouted up. In the first couple years, the left and right attempted a number of coups. There were many anti- Versaille Treaty protests and the social, political and economic situation was very bad. There was an attempted Nazi Putsch which failed and Hitler was imprisoned. At the start of the Great Depression the three main parties saw their share of the vote drop to below 50% and their effective governance was in serious trouble. Emergency rule became permanent which is never a good thing. There was a lot of conflict and the political turmoil was similar to the social turmoil they also faced. The Nazis began to win more due to the desperation of the people and the failing society. The parties were unable to maintain order in the streets and Hitler used that to his advantage to gain a majority and change his nation.

The Federal Republic of Germany was a big change after the War. Led by Konrad Adenauer, the Christian Democratic Union began a series of modernizations for the economy and government. They were able to maintain stability through the Basic Law which differed a lot from the Weimar Republic. The economic miracle that happened in this period was due to forged links between business and politics. Adenauer centralized power as much as possible in the Chancellor’s office. There had to be broad consensus. Their democratization had ties with many countries in the world and this helped to create peace.The legislative branch is represented by the Bundestag, elected directly through a mixture of proportional representation and direct mandates, with the German Länder participating in legislation through the Bundesrat, reflecting Germany’s federal structure.

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