Reichstag

   Elected directly by universal and equal suffrage, and inaugu-rating a system of proportional representation, the Republic's Reichstag dis-placed a body—the Kaiserreich's parliament was also named the Reichstag— that was more debating society than legislative assembly. The new body was designed to maximize democratic representation. The Constitution's* system of proportional representation divided the country into thirty-seven electoral dis-tricts and required parties to post lists of candidates in each district. The number of votes cast for a list within any district determined how many mandates a party received in the Reichstag. In essence, a Party gained one parliamentary seat for every 60,000 votes. Surplus votes in all districts were pooled to elect further representatives from national lists.
   The Reichstag's Weimar history was a tangled skein. Elections were sched-uled on a four-year cycle. Those of June 1920, occurring soon after enactment of the Versailles Treaty,* revealed that the earlier National Assembly* elections, which had produced a majority for the parties of the Weimar Coalition* (the SPD, the DDP, and the Center Party*), had been but a temporary shift in tra-ditional political loyalties; the Coalition's numbers were reduced from 76.2 per-cent to 43.6 percent (largely owing to dramatic losses for the DDP). The so-called inflation* election of May 1924, in which the government's economic policies were the campaign issue, brought the first breakthrough of radical and special-interest parties (e.g., the Economic Party*) at the expense of the middle-class parties. The unscheduled elections of December 1924, coming amidst a fragile recovery, occasioned some reversal in the fortunes of the NSDAP and the KPD, both of which had prospered in May. Moreover, some improvement accrued to the DDP and the DVP at the expense of special interests. But while the elections of May 1928 brought defeat to the anti-Weimar Right, thereby appearing to herald the Republic's final victory, the triumph was more apparent than real. Not only did 1928 witness the near collapse of the DDP and the DVP, but the special-interest parties almost doubled their representation. Moreover, the blow to the traditional Right, represented to date by the DNVP, made ready the dramatic rise of the NSDAP. Heinrich Bruning's* fateful dissolution of the chamber in 1930 ushered in the paralysis of Germany's parliament. With the enormous gains of the NSDAP in the September 1930 elections, the Republic entered a terminal season of legislative deadlock. By 1932, with Presidential Cabinets* supplanting legislative approval, parliamentary government had be-come a travesty.
   Throughout the Republic's history, electoral continuity for the SPD and the Center was striking (with the exception of the May 1924 elections, when many workers forsook the SPD for the KPD). But a consistent erosion of support for the bourgeois parties—the DDP and the DVP—was accompanied from 1920 by a steady shift to the Right and a drift toward extremism. This trend away from parties associated with the Republic was clearly linked to economic tur-moil; however, it also reflected a growing discontent with parliamentary de-mocracy. Moreover, President Hindenburg* shared the discontent by 1930 and thus encouraged the slow withdrawal of parliament's constitutional rights. The erosion of the democratic middle was disastrous after 1930 when the "anti-system" options included not simply special-interest groups but a dynamic NSDAP.
   REFERENCES:Childers, "Anti-System Politics," Nazi Voter; Holborn, History of Mod-ern Germany; Larry Jones, German Liberalism; Nicholls, Weimar.

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

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