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To What Extent Was Germany a Parliamentary Democracy? Essay

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To what extent was Germany a parliamentary democracy in the years 1900-1914? A parliamentary democracy is the power in Germany being shared amongst everybody. The positions are democratically elected by the population of the country. The way Germany was run is based upon the Constitution the power lies between the Reichstag, the chancellor and the Kaiser. Germany was a parliamentary democracy based on the constitution that Germany was run by.

The Bundesrat being part of the constitution consisted of 58 members who were elected by the state assemblies, the Bundesrat had the power in theory to the law making process and by this having this possibly the right to alter the constitution. The Bundesrat had the power to veto legislation against a bill, therefore being able to stop such laws that would not be in favour of Germany. As well as this, the Bundesrat and the Reichstag had joint legislative power. The Reichstag was elected members represented by constituencies and were all male over the age of twenty five.

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One of the most significant points in favour of Germany being a democracy is that Bismark introduced universal male suffrage elections in 1871. This is clearly an example of a parliamentary democracy because it allowed people of all classes to vote; meaning that every layer of society had the opportunity to be represented. However importantly over the Bundesrat the Reichstag was significantly in power of the financial affairs and the banking system of Germany and perhaps most importantly the control the Reichstag had over the defence budget which was vital federal government expenditure.

It had grown from being 100 million marks in 1890 to rapidly increasing to 2,405 million marks by 1913. Although the Kaiser did have the right to dissolve the Reichstag they still could hold elections after this. Furthermore the constitution was based on parliamentary democracy to an extent because members were elected into their positions. They held the power of money that the Kaiser did not have and the Bundesrat had the power to block legislative laws they did not like.

The constitution based on the control on the legislative power could have been changed by Reichstag and Bundesrat making Germany a parliamentary democracy. The growing importance and power of both the population and the Reichstag made it appear that Germany was a parliamentary democracy in the years 1900-1914. The impact of industrialisation was the growth of the socialist movement. There was a rapid growth of industries and it helped to stimulate a boom in the population creating a changed structure in German society. The standards of living had increased as well as the wages of workers for the working class.

Bismark had introduced a tariff law in 1879 that made the farmers have protection for their agriculture but this was later challenged and threatened to undermine them. It must not be forgotten that the Reichstag elections did increase from 50% in 1871 to 85% in 1912. Therefore Germany can be seen as a parliamentary democracy as people were seeing the right to vote and it was relevant. Nevertheless, although there is evidence of Germany potentially being a parliamentary democracy to an extent, it is also seen to be authoritarian with most of the power being at the hands of the Kaiser.

The constitution although giving power to the Reichstag and the Bundesrat it was extremely limited. Although the Reichstag did have legislative powers they were more the right to accept or reject what was placed in front of them. They could be still over ruled and the decision could be made by either the chancellor or Kaiser. The rule of the Chancellor can also be questioned as to Germany not be a parliamentary democracy because he did not have to answer to the Reichstag but to the Kaiser Wilhelm.

The Zabern affair highlighted the limited powers the Reichstag had the vote of no confidence made by the Reichstag was completely ignored by the Chancellor because of who he was more reliable to. He did have the right to ignore resolutions passed by the Reichstag. The considerable power Kaiser Wilhelm had over the Government of Germany was extensive with the right to appoint who he wanted as Chancellor and dissolve the Reichstag. The Daily Telegraph Affair of 1908 indicated how the Kaiser made such a big decision of wanting be an alliance of Britain without having consulted with the Reichstag.

Although it was the Kaiser’s mistake of saying such a thing in the interview Kaiser Wilhelm blamed Chancellor Bulow and later in summer 1908 his budget was defeated, ending his Chancellorship based on there being no confidence in the Kaiser. Over the years Kaiser Wilhelm got through numerous Chancellors such as Bismark, Bulow and because he had the right to do so he would appoint someone different when he lost trust or was concerned about them being loyal to him. The weaknesses of the Reichstag did effect how effective the parliamentary democracy of Germany was.

They were more interested in their own pressure groups than to unite and achieve together making Germany a parliamentary democracy. The Hottentot elections proved the Reichstag to be weak the SPD and Centre party joined together to vote down plans for a new railway in South West Africa. The attitude towards the colonial policy by the Centre Party resulted in the Reichstag being dissolved. The Herero uprising where the people were subjected to genocide or forced migration.

It had demonstrated the lack of parliamentary democracy in Germany due to lack of accountability for the colonial service and army. Also highlighted that there was a greater need for tighter financial control which the Reichstag were in charge of, therefore even when they had some power they didn’t use it properly by using too much money instead. Another weakness of the Reichstag was that all the parties distanced themselves from the Social Democrats, they refused to co-operate together because they feared that constitutional reform would become more radical.

The attitudes of the Reichstag towards the monarchy made Germany more in power of the Kaiser. The Reichstag supported the patriotic and expansionist policy of Weltpolitik. Therefore the Reichstag although having limited powers did the support the Kaisers views and policies to an extent. To conclude Germany is a parliamentary democracy to an extent because the constitution did allow structure to the Reichstag and Bundesrat, however these powers were limited and anything could be changed by the Kaiser if he wished as he could change the constitution.

The parliamentary democracy was not clear in Germany yet, the Reichstag had too many weaknesses in which they could have taken their chance to of gained more power and allow the Kaiser to lose some. The Kaiser had the final say in all decisions and even if the Reichstag were elected and dealing with some issues their say was not all important in comparison to the Chancellor and the Kaiser.