Jamaika, Jamaika, Jamaika. Not a day goes by in Germany without the name of one Caribbean island nation being mentioned in the news. This is because a new federal government in the colours of that country’s flag is about to be formed by black Christian Democrats, yellow Free Democrats and Greens.
The federal elections in Germany on 24 September 2017 will be remembered for three things: 1. Chancellor Angela Merkel lost. 2. Chancellor Angela Merkel won, and a black-yellow-green government under her leadership will likely be formed. 3. AfD, the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland, is now firmly established in German politics.
Measured in mere votes, Merkel was this election’s biggest looser. Her Christian Democrats lost a fifth of their voters and landed on the worst electoral result since 1949. Measured in options for power, Merkel won the election in the sense that she will also lead the next government. Germany’s chancellor for the past 12 years will get her chance to get to the top of the list of the Federal Republic’s longest serving heads-of-government.
Angela Merkel only has two options however to form a governing majority. Either the conservative sister parties – CSU in Bavaria and CDU in the rest of Germany’s 16 states (party colour: black) – broker a deal with the yellow liberals of the Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP) and the green Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, or the “grand coalition” of CDU, CSU and SPD continues.
The latter option was ruled out in no uncertain terms on election night by the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) Martin Schulz who failed in his own bid to become Federal Chancellor. With their worst election result in the history of the Federal Republic, Germany’s second largest party has very little appetite for a renewed “grand coalition” in the shadow of Angela Merkel and the Christian Democrats.
Other two-party majorities are not possible. A red-green government of Social Democrats and Greens ruled Germany from 1998 till 2005 under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD). Since then, both parties have lost ground and last Sunday, 15 October, a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens lost their governing majority in Lower Saxony, Germany’s second largest state.
A black-yellow majority was in power 2009-2013 with CDU, CSU and FDP. The Free Democrats suffered a blow in the 2013 federal elections and weren’t represented in the Bundestag for four years. However, even though the FDP is now back, Christian Democrats and Free Democrats didn’t get the 50 % necessary to form a new black-yellow government.
Also, a number of possible three-party coalitions won’t be able to muster the 50 % of the members of parliament required to form a governing majority. Thus, a so-called “traffic light coalition” of red Social Democrats, yellow Free Democrats and Greens isn’t on the table. A red-red-green coalition of SPD, the Left Party (Die Linke) and the Greens is also not possible.
On the state level, Germany already had a “Jamaica coalition” in Saarland 2009-2012 and as of 2017 there is a black-yellow-green government in the northernmost German state of Schleswig-Holstein, wittingly dubbed “Jamaica in the North”. On the federal level, coalition talks began in Berlin this week and negotiations in coming months will be tough.
As Social Democrats opt for an opposition role, Germany will likely get its first federal government of Christian Democrats, Free Democrats and Greens. That, in modern German political lingo, spells Jamaika.
Read also The Flag Coalitions In German Politics.