Soon every German will have heard of the Jamaican flag

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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.


A Quick Guide To Catalan Flags

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With the Spanish constitutional crisis over the October 2017 independence referendum in Catalonia, there are Spanish and Catalonian flags in the streets and in the news on a daily basis. Here are six Catalonian flags you need to know.

1. La Senyera is a yellow flag with four red horizontal stripes. This is the official flag of Catalonia. It is used by Catalonians who are in favour of independence and by Catalonians who are against.

In Catalan, the word senyera means banner or ensign, or simply flag. It is a banner of the arms of the Crown of Aragon to which Catalonia belonged. The arms of Aragon are four red vertical stripes in a golden shield (in proper heraldic terms: Or, four pallets Gules). They are part of the modern coat of arms of Spain. As a symbol, these red barras de Aragón are almost a thousand years old. Today they can be found in the flags of countries and regions which have historical ties to the Kings of Aragon and the Counts of Barcelona: Spain, Catalonia, Valencia, Aragon and the Balearic Islands, Andorra, Roussillon and Provence.

2. L’Estelada Blava means “the blue starred” in Catalan. This flag is the primary symbol of Catalonian separatism and, thanks to coverage from international news media of recent events, it has fast become widely known outside Spain.

The so-called Blue Estelada adds a blue triangle with a white five-pointed star to the Senyera. It was designed in 1918, influenced by the flags of Cuba and Puerto Rico. These two countries had fought for independence from Spain and inspired Catalonians who wanted to cut ties with Spain, too. In the 1930s a Catalan Republic was declared twice. After the Spanish Civil War Catalonian identity, the Catalan language and the use of the Estelada flag were subdued for decades.

3. L’Estelada Vermella is “the red starred” flag of Catalonia. Whereas the Blue Estelada is the main separatist symbol and the preferred flag for most centre-right and centre-left republicans, the Red Estelada has been the preferred flag for most Socialist and Communist separatists since the late 1960s.

4. La Bandera de Barcelona is the official flag of Catalonia’s capital city. It’s a banner of the city’s arms combining the red stripes from the Senyera with the Cross of Saint George (in Catalan, Creu de Sant Jordi). He is the patron saint of Barcelona and the white flag with a red cross has played an important role in the history of Catalonia and Barcelona since the Middle Ages.

5. L’Estelada Blaugrana is the “the blue-carmine starred” version of the Estelada flag which is sometimes used by FC Barcelona fans and players. Dark blue together with deep, almost purplish red are the team colours of the world famous football club.

No-one who knows and follows FC Barcelona or have been present at a football match in the club’s home stadium of Camp Nou would say that football has nothing to do with politics. You can always count on Baa fans (in Catalan, Blaugranes) to wave the flag for Catalonian independence. Flags are a constant point of contention between Catalonia’s number one football club and Spanish sports authorities. FC Barcelona fans not only use the blue and red Esteladas, they also have their own Estelada of dark blue and carmine red.

6. L’Estelada Periquita is a newcomer among Catalonia’s separatist flags and it immediately caused trouble. It is used by pro-independence fans of the mostly Spanish unionist football club RCD Espanyol.

The Reial Club Deportiu Espanyol de Barcelona is the city’s second football club. Only four times did Espanyol win the Spanish Copa del Rey tournament; FC Barcelona has won the title 29 times. This local rivalry is not just about football. Traditionally, fans of Espanyol are much less nationalist and separatist than Baa fans. RCD Espanyol is known as Periquitos (the parakeets) or Blanc-i-blaus (the white and blue). So, of course, with the rising number of Catalonians in favour of independence from Spain, there is now also an Estelada flag in the Espanyol team colours.