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‹ 1919 Germany 1932
German presidential election, 1925
March 29 and April 26, 1925
Liebermann portret van Paul von Hindenburg.jpg Reichskanzler Wilhelm Marx.jpg Bundesarchiv Bild 102-12940, Ernst Thälmann.jpg
Nominee Paul von Hindenburg Wilhelm Marx Ernst Thälmann
Party Independent Centre Communist
Popular vote 14,655,641 13,751,605 1,931,151
Percentage 48.3% 45.3% 6.4%

The presidential election (Reichspräsidentenwahl) of 1925 was the first direct election to the office of President of the Reich (Reichspräsident), Germany's head of state during the 1919-1933 Weimar Republic. The first President, Friedrich Ebert, died on 28 February, 1925. Ebert had been elected indirectly, by the National Assembly, but the Weimar constitution required that his successor be elected by the "whole German people". After two rounds of voting, on 29 March and on 26 April, Paul von Hindenburg was elected as the second president of Germany.

Hindenburg was the candidate of a broad coalition of the political right. Many on the right hoped that once in power he would destroy Weimar democracy from the inside and restore the pre-Weimar status quo. The two other candidates who were believed to have a chance of winning were Otto Braun of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Wilhelm Marx of Zentrum (also known as the 'Catholic Centre Party'). Braun and Marx's parties were both members of the 'Weimar coalition': the group of parties regarded as most committed to the Weimar system. Only Marx proceeded to the second round of the election.

The election was important because of the turbulent times in which it occurred and because, under the Weimar constitution, the head of state wielded considerable power. Hindenburg would be again returned in the 1932 election and would play an important role during the rise to power of the Nazis. However, many of Hindenburg's 1925 backers were subsequently disappointed. Although in the years that followed his election many questioned the constitutionality of certain of his actions, Hindenburg never attempted to overthrow the Weimar constitution outright.

Contents

Electoral system

During the Weimar Republic the law provided that if no candidate received an absolute majority of votes (i.e. more than half) in the first round of a presidential election then a second ballot would occur in which the candidate with a plurality of votes would be deemed elected. It was permitted for a group to nominate an alternative candidate in the second round.

First round

Seven candidates stood in the first round. Hindenburg was not included among them as he would not be nominated as a candidate until the second round. Instead, the most popular candidate of the political right was Karl Jarres of the German People's Party (DVP), a former Minister of the Interior, Vice-Chancellor of Germany and mayor of Duisburg. Otto Braun, the SPD's candidate, was a former Minister-President of Prussia and a well known and respected figure. Zentrum's candidate, Wilhelm Marx, was the chair of the party and a former chancellor.

The other significant candidates were Ernst Thälmann of the Communist Party (KPD) and Willy Hellpach of the German Democratic Party (DDP). The Nazi Party (NSDAP) put forward Erich Ludendorff but was at that time merely a fringe movement and secured only a negligible share of the vote. The first ballot was held on 29 March, with a turnout of 68.9%.

Candidate Votes (%) Party membership Supporting
Karl Jarres 10,416,658 (38.8) German People's Party (DVP) German National People's Party (DNVP)
Otto Braun 7,802,497 (29.0) Social Democratic Party (SPD) n/a
Wilhelm Marx 3,887,734 (14.5) Zentrum n/a
Ernst Thälmann 1,871,815 (7.0) Communist Party (KPD) n/a
Willy Hellpach 1,568,398 (5.8) German Democratic Party (DDP) n/a
Heinrich Held 1,007,450 (3.7) Bavarian People's Party (BVP) n/a
Erich Ludendorff 285,793 (1.1) Nazi Party (NSDAP) n/a

Second round

After the election's first round Jarres withdrew in favour of Hindenburg, who was a monarchist and popular former general. Hindenburg reluctantly agreed to stand, supposedly only after first consulting with the deposed Kaiser. His major supporters were the DVP, the German National People's Party (DNVP) and the Bavarian People's Party (BVP). The DVP, and especially its leader Gustav Stresemann, had reservations about the idea of a Hindenburg presidency because of its possible repercussions for German foreign policy, but eventually came on board.

The SPD and Zentrum agreed to make Marx their common candidate to ensure the defeat of Hindenburg and so, after Zentrum refused to support Braun, he withdrew from the race. The DDP also reluctantly agreed to withdraw its candidate and support Marx. As Marx's supporters included both the moderate left and the political centre he was believed to have a high chance of winning. The three participants in the second round were therefore Hindenburg, Marx and Thälmann of the Communists. Because of Thälmann's participation the left-wing vote was split, giving an advantage to Hindenburg. The election occurred on April 26 and with a turnout of 77.6%. Hindenburg won on a plurality of the vote, with 48.3% to Marx's 45.3%.

Candidate Votes (%) Party membership Supporting
Paul von Hindenburg 14,655,641 (48.3) None DVP, DNVP, BVP, NSDAP
Wilhelm Marx 13,751,605 (45.3) Zentrum SPD, DDP
Ernst Thälmann 1,931,151 (6.4) Communist Party (KPD) n/a

See also

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