National Assembly

(Nationalversammlung)
   In accordance with a 30 November 1918 ruling by the Council of People s Representatives,* elections for a constituent assembly were held on 19 January 1919. Six parties and several splinter groups campaigned in Germany s thirty-eight electoral districts for the 431 mandates awarded to the National Assembly. (Ten seats allotted to Alsace-Lorraine* were nullified.) The distribution of mandates, calculated at one seat for every 150,000 votes, was as follows: DNVP, 42; DVP, 22; Center Party,* 90; DDP, 75; SPD, 163; and USPD, 22 (7 seats were awarded splinter parties). The KPD boycotted the elections. The results, which placed the socialist parties in a minority, were deemed a victory for parliamentary democracy and a defeat for those promoting radical revolution. Although the distribution coincided with that of the 1912 Reichstag,* the 1919 electorate was altogether different, num-bering 36,304,084 eligible voters (compared with 14,442,387 in 1912). The vot-ing age had been lowered from twenty-five to twenty, while suffrage had been extended to members of the armed forces and women* (37 seats were won by women). Eighty-three percent of eligible voters participated.
   The National Assembly, dominated by the Weimar Coalition* parties, as-sumed the burdens of forming a government, making peace with the Allies, and creating a constitution.* Meeting from 6 February through August 1919 in Wei-mar's National Theater (Berlin* having been deemed unsafe), it passed a law on 11 February granting itself the power to elect the Republic's first President (Friedrich Ebert*). Under the chairmanship of Eduard David* and later of Kon-stantin Fehrenbach,* it decreed that elections for a new Reichstag be held in June 1920, and it drafted a constitution that, while embodying expressions of strong centralized authority, retained much of the federalism peculiar to the Kaiserreich. The Constitution was approved by the Assembly on 31 July 1919. The delegates reconvened in Berlin on 30 September 1919, but were forced by the Kapp* Putsch into brief exile in March 1920. Before it dissolved on 21 May 1920, the Assembly passed measures reforming the Reichswehr* and German finances. It governed in a period marked by disappointment, and few regretted its passing; however, the Assembly's accomplishments were solid, and its influ-ence in founding Germany's first parliamentary democracy should not be un-derrated.
   REFERENCES:Eyck, History of the Weimar Republic, vol. 1; Frye, Liberal Democrats; Walter Kaufmann, Monarchism; Peukert, Weimar Republic; Ryder, German Revolution of 1918.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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