A problem that was to plague the empire throughout its existence was the disparity between the Prussian and imperial political systems.In Prussia the lower house was elected under a restricted three-class suffrage system, an electoral law that allowed the richest 15 percent of the male population to choose approximately 85 percent of the delegates.

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The Centre generally received 20–25 percent of the total vote in all elections.

The SPD grew from 2 seats in the first imperial election to 35 by 1890, when the SPD actually gained a plurality of votes.

The nation was ethnically homogeneous apart from a modest-sized Polish minority and smaller Danish, French, and Sorbian populations.

Approximately 67 percent lived in villages and the remainder in towns and cities.

Clerical civil servants were purged from the Prussian administration.

The Kulturkampf failed to achieve its goals and, if anything, convinced the Roman Catholic minority that their fear of persecution was real and that a confessional party to represent their interests was essential.(Female suffrage had not been proposed because politics was considered a male preserve at the time.) The Progressives, a left-wing liberal party, were expected to do poorly in the two-thirds of Germany that was rural in 1867.Bismarck had not counted on new parties such as the Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands; SPD), both of which began participating in imperial and Prussian elections in the early 1870s.A further problem was that government ministers were generally selected from the civil service or the military.They often had little experience with parliamentary government or foreign affairs.The empire was forged not as the result of the outpouring of nationalist feeling from the masses but through traditional cabinet diplomacy and agreement by the leaders of the states in the North German Confederation, led by Prussia, with the hereditary rulers of Bavaria, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Württemberg.