On 11 August 1919, provisional Reich President Friedrich Ebert (SPD) signs the constitution of the German Reich, the „Weimar Constitution“, which founds the first parliamentary democracy in Germany. Drafted by the liberal constitutional law expert Hugo Preuss the Weimar Constitution is essentially a compromise between the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and its bourgeois coalition partners – the German Democratic Party (DDP) and the Catholic Centre.
Graphic illustration of the Weimar Constitution
According to its provisions the Reichstag, elected for four years according to general, universal, and secret elections, exercises power over legislation and budgetary law and controls the executive. The government of the Reich is dependent on the confidence of the parliament. The strongest counterbalance to the legislative branch is the constitutionally created office of Reich President („substitute Chancellor“), who is elected directly by the people for seven years and is endowed with far-reaching authority: According to Article 25 he can dissolve the Reichstag and, if public safety is threatened, declare a state of emergency and issue emergency decrees (Article 48).