Once again the presidential government, led by Franz von Papen (Zentrum/Centre) went to the polls on 31 July 1932, in the hope of securing a parliamentary majority. The elections were held against a backdrop of economic depression, with unemployment at nearly 30 per cent. The were accompanied by political violence; the SA, the Nazi paramilitaries, clashed with militant Communists. Shock waves reverberated throughout Germany when Hitler’s National Socialists (NSDAP) emerged with 37.4 per cent of the vote (230 seats in the Reichstag), more than doubling its share of the vote. At the other end of the political spectrum the Communist Party (KPD) increased its share of the vote to 1.5 per cent (89 seats). With a combined tally of 319 out of 608 Reichstag seats the Communists and National Socialists effectively held a joint power of veto within the Reichstag. The upsurge of the radicals was matched by a collapse of the centrist pro-Republican parties: the Social Democrats (SPD) lost 3.9 per cent of the vote, polling 21.6 per cent, although the Centre made a small gain of 0.7 per cent to poll 12.5 per cent. The National Socialists (Nazis) were the largest party but did not hold a governing majority, and the other parties refused to join them in a coalition, so von Papen’s minority government maintained its precarious hold on power until November.
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