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Neumann, Sigmund, 1904- / Germany: promise and perils

Politics in the Bonn Republic,   pp. 40-[48] PDF (2.5 MB)

Page 40

Politics in the
Bonn Republic
ON MAY 8, 1949-FOUR years to the day after the unconditional
surrender of the Third Reich-the basic law for the Federal Re-
public of Germany was promulgated. On August 14 the elections
for the first Federal Diet took place. On September 12 the new
President, Theodor Heuss, was voted into power by the Federal
Convention, consisting of the members of the Peoples' Parliament
and an equal number of representatives of the Lander, the prov-
inces or states which are the basic units of German federalism.
Three days later the Diet accepted-by a one-vote majority, to
be sure-Konrad Adenauer for the powerful office of Chancellor
of the Republic.
Transitional Government
This is a transitional government, interim and improvised, as
far as its leaders, its parties and its loyalties are concerned. On
first sight it looks like a strong democracy in which close to 80
per cent of the electorate went to the polls, and 80 per cent of
these voted for moderate parties. In fact, the Bonn constitution
-or Fundamental Law, as it is called-is an intricate document
adopted after a nine-months struggle which recalled earlier Ger-
man constitutional debates. It reflects the thoroughness and de-
votion to democratic ideals of the "old professionals" who wanted
to destroy the ghosts of the past-both the Nazi totalitarianism
and the weak and unstable Weimar system.

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