Ways the Weimar Constitution Created Democracy in Germany
The constitution of the Weimar Republic, drafted by the liberal juristHugo Preuss, aimed to combine the principles of the first tenamendments of the Constitution of the United States, the FrenchDeclaration of the Rights of Man, and twentieth-century modifications.From the German viewpoint, it represented a major break from theformer imposing regime, which had been far more authoritarian thandemocratic. Therefore in theory, the constitution of the WeimarRepublic comprised the most advanced democracy in Europe, preserving awide range of liberal policies while retaining a degree of stabilityand continuity with the past. The first clause of the constitutionbegan; ‘The German Reich is a republic. Political authority is derivedfrom the people.’
The electoral system was as advanced as anywhere in Europe, based on“universal, equal, direct, and secret suffrage by men and women overtwenty years of age, according to the principle of proportionalrepresentation.’’ Everyone over 20 could vote for party lists for theReichstag every four years: for state assemblies every four years: forPresident every seven years. The electorate also had the plebiscitepowers, electing every 7 years the President who, as suitable for arepublican constitution, replaced the former Kaiser as head of state.
While power appeared to be concentrated with lawmakers in thelegislature, (the elected deputies of the Reichstag), considerableauthority was also placed in the hands of the executive, thoseresponsible for seeing that the laws were put into effect, (thePresident). In certain circumstances, the president had the power torule by decree and govern the republic directly. In the event of anemergency, article 48 of the Constitution allowed the President tosuspend civil liberties, take emergency powers and rule by decree.
The two parliamentary institutions were the Reichstag and theReichsrat. The Reichstag contained the elected deputies and alone hadthe authority to introduce and approve legislation. The reichsrat,largely an advisory body, was of far less importance and only had the