A parliamentary democracy is a system of government in which there is an elected legislature. However, the election process is completely different than that in place in the United States. In a parliamentary democracy citizens vote for a certain political party which, in turn selects representatives to fill seats in the legislature (1). Parties are awarded seats for the percentage of votes they receive in elections. Once in parliament, political parties with similar interests and views form coalitions to gain power. In a parliamentary democracy the leaders of the executive branch are also chosen by the legislature (2). Typically, the party with the most seats in the legislature also chooses this executive leader.

A parliamentary democracy system was set in place in the Weimar Republic following the ratification of the Weimar Constitution. Under this system there were two houses of parliament, the Reichstag and the Reichsrat, and a president who was elected every seven years. This system of proportional representation was the first of its kind in Germany (3). In its first election, the republic received an 83% voter turnout. 76% of which voted pro-democratic, the three most mainstream parties held the majority (4).

The Major Political Parties in the Weimar Republic: (from Leftist to Rightist ideologies)

KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands) - The German Communist Party, formed in 1919 by extreme leftist Spartacists. Supported a revolutionary overthrow of the Weimar Republic. Gained a majority of supporters from working-class (5).

USPD (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) - Independent German Social Democratic Party, established in 1917 when it separated from the more moderate German Social Democratic party. The USPD's agenda included more elements of German radical socialism. By 1922 many of its supporters defected back to the SPD and the KPD (6).

SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) - German Social Democratic Party, a more moderate wing of socialism. Strongly supported the parliamentary democracy set in place by the Weimar constitution. Differed from more radical socialist parties in that it did not support revolutionary overthrows. Considered to be the party of trade unions and moreover, the working class (7).

DDP (Deutsche Demokratische Partei) - German Democratic Party, established and supported by the professional middle class. The DDP supported the democratic republic and constitutional reform (8).

ZP (Zentrumspartei) - Centre Party, established to voice interests of the Roman Catholic Church. The ZP held slight right wing ideals. Supported by a wide variety of the population (9).

BVP (Bayerische Volkspartei) - Bavarian People's Party, created in 1919 to uphold interests of Bavaria. Generally considered to be conservative although, it did support the republic (10).

DVP (Deutsche Volkspartei) - German National People's Party, after 1921 the DVP became a strong believer in the democratic republic. Gained a majority of their supporters from the upper-middle class (11).

DNVP (Deutschnationale Volkspartei) - German National People's Party, Formed form old-conservative political parties that, generally supported monarchist anti-democratic ideals. Held heavy support in heavy industry and agriculture industries (12).

NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Partei Deutschlands) - Or the National Socialist German Workers' "Nazi" Party, formed in 1919 by extreme rightists with nationalist, anti-democratic, and racist ideals. This party failed to gain strong support until 1930 (13).



(1) "election." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition. 30 Sept. 2009 <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-229028>.

(2) ibid.

(3) Layton, Geoff. "The Threats to Weimar 1919-1923." Weimar and the Rise of Nazi Germany.

3rd Edition. Lodon. Hodder, 2005.

(4) ibid.

(5) The German Revolution, The Major Political Parties in the Weimar Republic.

(6) ibid.

(7) ibid.

(8) ibid.

(9) ibid.

(10) ibid.

(11) ibid.

(12) ibid.

(13) ibid.