Federal elections were held in Germany on 12 January 1912. Although the Social Democratic Party (SPD) had received the most votes in every election since 1890, they had never won the most seats, and in the 1907 elections they had won fewer than half the seats of the Centre Party despite receiving over a million more votes. However, this election saw the party win more than double the number of votes of the second-placed Centre Party and become the largest party, winning 110 of the 397 seats.
The party breakdown in the newly elected Reichstag made possible a majority coalition of groups hostile or ambivalent to the ruling elites of the German Empire – the Social Democrats, the Centre Party, and the left-liberal Progressives between them commanded a majority. The effects of this possibility would be seen with the vote of no confidence in the government of Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg over the Saverne Affair in 1913 and the Reichstag Peace Resolution of 1917. Nonetheless, the Centre and the Progressives were unwilling to act consistently in opposition, leaving the government largely free to do as it wished.
Some historians, such as Fritz Fischer have theorized that the First World War was partially a result of the strategy of the conservative PrussianJunkers to deal with this result. In an attempt to increase support for conservative parties and policies, to distract the population from the SPD they hoped to drum up patriotism in an external conflict with Russia or another east European state such as Serbia. Other authors, such as Niall Ferguson, feel that German conservatives were ambivalent about a war, worrying that losing a war would have disastrous consequences, and even a successful war might alienate the population if it were lengthy or difficult.