Problems and Fault Lines of the Constitutional Order

During its centennial history, the Bavarian Constitution of 1818 proved capable of reform in many respects. However, the social and political changes from the last third of the nineteenth century, and in particular after the turn of the century, revealed fault lines that finally broke open during WWI.

They concerned not least demands of political participation. The electoral law of the Bavarian Landtag (Regional Parliament), which had been reformed by the electoral laws of 1848 and 1906, was by no means seen as reactionary compared to the rest of German lands, but clearly lagged behind the electoral law of the Reichstag (Imperial State Parliament) in force from 1871. In Bavaria, the right to vote in the Landtag remained dependent on taxation until 1918 and thus excluded large parts of the population. Women who since the turn of the century had also campaigned for political participation, were excluded from elections as happened everywhere in the German Empire.

In addition, unlike to elections of the Reichstag, the majority principle applied to the Bavarian state elections. Therefore, the growing urban population was put at a disadvantage compared to the rural regions.

The lack of social policy reforms also had an increasing impact. In the 1880s and 1890s, Bavaria experienced a strong growth in population, which was particularly noticeable in the industrial centres and in the Bavarian cities. Demands for decent living and working conditions and above all a state unemployment insurance were mainly formulated by the Social Democrats. However, implementation failed almost entirely due to the resistance of the First Chamber of the Bavarian State Parliament, the so-called Chamber of the Imperial Councillors. In the years before the WWI, this chamber increasingly became an obstacle to social policy reforms.

After the death of Ludwig II (1845–1886, king 1864–1886), far-reaching reforms of the state structure seemed solely possible under difficult conditions for constitutional reasons. Even though numerous laws for constitutional change were passed during the over 26-year regency for the invalid King Otto (1848–1916, king 1886–1916), no comprehensive reforms took place.

After the accession of Ludwig III (1845–1921, regent 1912–1913, king 1913–1918) on 5 November 1913, the outbreak of WWI in August 1914 finally prevented a reform of the Bavarian constitution, which anyway had little appeal for king, government and the majority of the state parliament. It happened only during the almost hopeless situation towards the final weeks of the war in October 1918 that there was willingness to reform.