Under the Weimar system, the presidency was a powerful office and, following his re-election, Hindenburg played an important role in the coming to power of the Nazis, reluctantly appointing Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.
Incumbent President Paul von Hindenburg was 84 years old and in poor health. Never enthusiastic about the presidency (or public office in general), Hindenburg had planned to stand down after his first term. However, the prospect of Adolf Hitler being elected President of Germany persuaded the reluctant incumbent to seek a second term.
Despite becoming a German citizen (and thus eligible for public office) only on 25 February 1932, Hitler hoped to use the presidency to overturn the Weimar constitution and establish a dictatorship. In the 1925 election Hindenburg had been the candidate of the political right and had been strenuously opposed by much of the moderate left and political center. However, in 1932, this part of the political spectrum decided to unite with the moderate right in supporting Hindenburg to prevent Hitler's election. The support of the moderate Weimar coalition was also encouraged by the fact that, contrary to fears expressed at the time of his election in 1925, Hindenburg had not used his office to subvert the constitution, as Hitler now aimed to do.
Although Hitler lost the presidential election of 1932, he succeeded Hindenburg as head of state only two years later, when Hindenburg died in 1934. After the president's death Hitler abolished the office entirely, and replaced it with the new position of Führer und Reichskanzler ("Leader and Reich Chancellor"), cementing his dictatorship.
The 1932 election was the second of only two presidential elections of the Weimar period. When the modern office of German Federal President was established in 1949, following the restoration of democracy in West Germany, it was decided that the president would be chosen indirectly by means of a Federal Convention consisting of parliamentarians and state delegates. To date, therefore, the 1932 election was the last occasion on which a direct presidential election has occurred in Germany.
Under the electoral law, a candidate who received an absolute majority of votes (i.e. more than half) in the first round was elected. If no candidate received a majority, then a second round would be held. In the second round, the candidate receiving a plurality of votes would be elected. A party was permitted to nominate an alternative candidate in the second round, but in 1932 this did not occur (unlike 1925).