History Parliamentary Democracy 30 Mark Essay

Submitted By Bethfarrar
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Pages: 5

To what extent was Germany a parliamentary democracy in the years 1900-14? 30 marks
The idea of a parliamentary democracy refers to a democratic form a government in which the party with the most representation in parliament forms the government. A voting system is in place to elect the chosen party. The leader of this party then becomes the Chancellor or Prime minister.
It can be argued that Germany was a parliamentary democracy in the years 1900-14 as certain elements suggested that it was. For instance the Reichstag gave the illusion that this was the case seen as its members were elected and they could vote to accept, reject or amend legislation. The voting system that was put in place allowed men over the age of 25 to vote for people to become members of the Reichstag. Although the Reichstag could be dissolved by the Kaiser, it could never be permanently dissolved seen as they had the right to hold elections soon after dissolution. The Reichstag had certain amounts of power in certain areas such as the defence budget, the annual budget and it also had a say on legislation. This supports the idea that Germany was a parliamentary democracy because not all of the power was held in the hands of the Kaiser. However on the other hand, the Reichstag may have had certain control over legislation but they had little control over initiating it, rather their role was to debate and accept or reject legislation that was put in front of it. The Reichstag could also easily be ignored by the Chancellor who was only accountable to the Kaiser. Although there was a voting system, it was an archaic and corrupt one at that meaning that the more tax you paid the more your vote was worth. This was known as the ‘three class franchise’. This can be shown in the 1908 election in Prussia when 418,000 conservative supporters voted conservative they gained 212 seats but when 600,000 socialist supporters voted for the SPD party they only gained 6 seats. This huge difference in seats was due to the fact that the SPD supporters were mainly working class families. This goes against the idea that Germany was a parliamentary democracy seen as the voting system that was in place was neither fair nor accurate meaning that the chosen party was not a true representation of the votes.
Elements of the Bundesrat would support this idea too seen as it contained representatives appointed by regional state assemblies and it could initiate legislation. If fourteen or more members of the Bundesrat voted against a law then it could be vetoed. Again this shows elements of a voting system in place suggesting that a parliamentary democracy was present in Germany. Although this system was in place, the Prussian Party in the Bundesrat had 17 members which meant that if they so wished to veto something then it did not even take all of its members to vote against it. This essentially meant that Prussia was the dominant state and could in fact control Germany if it wanted to. This goes against the principles of a parliamentary democracy seen as all the power did not lie with the chosen party from the elections.
The Chancellor’s role in Germany in the period 1900-14 also went against the idea that Germany was a parliamentary democracy. The first Chancellor in place at the start of this time frame was Prince Bernhard von Bulow. The end of his chancellorship came in 1909 when his budget was formally defeated. The reason for this was due to the Kaiser rather than the end of the Bulow Bloc as he no longer had his confidence. This shows how important the Kaiser actually was in Germany and that he had all the power. The next chancellor was Dr Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg. The Chancellor was directly responsible to the Kaiser as chief minister of the Reich. Again this backs up the assumption that Germany was in fact constitutional rather than democratic and that all power laid with the Kaiser rather than the elected…