When created, the Weimar Republic was hailed as one of the most democratic governments in Europe. Despite this, it lasted just fifteen years.
The strengths and weaknesses of the republic are discussed below.
The republic had many democratic strengths. It allowed individual freedoms for everyone. This granted the right to free speech, the right to equality and the right to religion to every German citizen.
All adults over the age of twenty could vote. The voting system used was Proportional Representation, a fair system in which parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them.
This system was used to elect the president and the Reichstag.
From 1924 onwards the republic also had a new currency, and following the implementation Dawes Plan, experienced a period of relative economic stability.
Despite the above, the republic had four weaknesses.
Proportional Representation was a very democratic electoral system, but it allowed lots of parties to be elected to the Reichstag. No one party was ever elected with a majority. This meant that parties had to form coalitions to rule. Coalitions often disagreed on laws and policies due to their differing views, which made it extremely difficult to govern decisively.
In addition to the above, Article 48 of the constitution gave the president authority to rule by decree in the state of an emergency, bypassing the elected Reichstag. It did not, however, give a definition as to what constituted a ‘state of emergency’. This article was repeatedly misused by Hindenburg and eventually allowed Hitler to ‘legally’ take total control of Germany.
The reliance on foreign loans following the Dawes Plan led to a severe economic depression following the Wall Street Crash. This ultimately led to further political instability, and eventually, contributed to the end of democratic government.
Finally, many of the old conservative elite who had held key positions of power under the monarchy had continued in similar roles in the Weimar Republic. Whilst this was an attempt to maintain stability in government as the new republic settled, it in fact meant that these civil servants and military leaders still had enormous influence and power. The power and influence of the conservative elite would later be crucial in appointing Hitler as chancellor.