History

Study Notes

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Weimar Constitution

Level:
AS, A Level
Board:
AQA, Edexcel, OCR

It is crucial as historians to be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Weimar Constitution. It is simply not enough to blame the constitution in itself as a way to describe the failure of the Weimar Republic. 

Strengths of the Constitution

The constitution was agreed by the National Assembly which meant that it had agreement from most of the political spectrum that was represented in the assembly. It allowed for there to be differences between the states which recognised the differences between the states and allowed those to continue.

Historically, German political parties were used to having to make coalitions so the introduction of proportional representation made this coalition culture an enshrined part of the German political culture.

Ultimately, the constitution set up a liberal framework for Germany to operate in, but it ultimately could not cope with the events that it had to face during the time of the Weimar Republic.

Weaknesses of the Constitution

The electoral system in the form of proportional representation meant that political parties were abundant, representing almost every form of interest and many got seats in the Reichstag. This huge number of parties resulted in majority governments being unachievable. Thus there were many different coalition governments which were unstable and often collapsed. This led to weak government.

The second major problem was the distribution of political power. The creation of the office of the President was an equal powerbase to the Reichstag. It leads to the strange question as to whether the President or the Reichstag was the ultimate political authority in Germany. Linked to the President was the Article 48 Emergency Powers which allowed the President to make laws without consulting the Reichstag. This was a huge amount of power for the President to have.

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