The Flag Coalitions In German Politics

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If you want to understand German politics and all the possible party coalitions people talk about, you need to know a little about flags, too. Some of the combinations of parties which could potentially join to form a government are named for flags with the same colours as the parties in question. 

2017 is Super Election Year in Germany. Today, it started off with the election of a new Federal President. There will be three state parliamentary elections this spring and, on September 24, a new Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, will be elected.

However, it has become increasingly less easy to predict which parties will be in government in the future. Those days are long gone when the Christian Democrats (CDU and CSU) or the Social Democrats (SPD) could be sure to govern alone, or with the help of just one of the smaller parties.

At the moment, Germany and three of its states (Länder) are governed by a “grand coalition” – a coalition where the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats have had to join forces to form a majority. Chancellor Angela Merkel of the CDU and her Social Democratic counterparts will be sure to look for other options this year.

A coalition of Christian Democrats (party colour: black), the Greens (party colour: green) and the liberal Free Democrats (party colour: yellow) will probably be possible. Such a coalition is usually referred to as a “Jamaica coalition” as the Jamaican flag is black, green and yellow.

Another combination of one larger party and two smaller ones is the red-yellow-green. This kind of coalition is usually referred to as a “traffic light coalition” (Ampelkoalition), but has also been called a “Senegal coalition”. At the moment red-yellow-green governs in the the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

In the case that a parliamentary majority can’t be built even when  Christian Democrats and Social Democrats come together there is talk of a “Germany coalition” (black-red-yellow) or a “Kenya coalition” (black-red-green) where one of the smaller parties takes part in the governing coalition, the Free Democrats or the Greens respectively. Presently, the state of Saxony-Anhalt has a black-red-yellow government.

Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein has been governed by a coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and the SSW since 2012. The South Schleswig Voters’ Association (SSW) is an alliance representing the interests of the Danish and the Frisian minorities. Its party colours are those of the arms of the historical duchy of Schleswig: yellow and blue. Because of the SSW blue, some have named the Schleswig-Holstein government the “Gambia coalition” as the Gambian flag has on it the colours red, green and blue.

A new Schleswig-Holstein state parliament will be elected on May 7. One week later, on May 14, parliamentary elections will be held in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

On February 12, the 1260 electors of the Federal Convention (Bundesversammlung) convened in the Reichstag building in Berlin to elect the Bundespräsident, the head-of-state of the Federal Republic of Germany. The next Federal President is the former Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the SPD.

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