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.

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Bavarian – A New Flag Family?

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You already know these flag families: Nordic Cross, Pan-Slavic, Pan-Arab, Pan-African. Also, flags around the world have been inspired by the Stars & Stripes, the Communist red flag, the Dutch and French tricolours, and the UN flag. I ask: Will Bavaria’s flag design with the iconic lozenges spread and become a new flag family?

The German state of Bavaria has two official flags which are both white and blue, the Bavarian state colours, or Landesfarben: One with two horizontal stripes called the Streifenflagge and another with a lozengy pattern called the Rautenflagge.

A lozenge (in German: Raute) is a rhombus, a geometric shape with four equally long sides, with acute angles of less than 90°. Lozenges or lozengy patterns is a well known feature in heraldry. The lozengy flag of Bavaria is derived from the arms of the Bavarian Royal Family, the Wittelsbachs, who have used the white and blue lozenges (in strict heraldic terms: fusilly in bend argent and azure) since the 13th Century.

Both the striped and the lozengy flag are in use in Bavaria and represent the state in the rest of Germany and abroad. But the flag with lozenges, being graphically more distinct and original than the one with stripes, has become the most widespread and is seen in a wide range of versions: with or without the officially prescribed number of lozenges (at least 21), with or without the Bavarian coat of arms, etc.

The lozengy design has for a long time been a symbol of Bavaria, one might even call it an iconic brand. The white and blue lozenges can be seen on all kinds of Bavarian produce. Maybe this is the reason why the lozengy flag design has spread in resent years.

Flags with black and yellow lozenges are being used in the Bavarian capital of Munich. The city’s colours are black and yellow and come from the city’s arms: a monk dressed in black and yellow. The official flag of Munich has two horizontal stripes, but the lozengy version is popular, too.

A Bavarian style version of the Gay Pride Flag with rainbow coloured lozenges is also in use.

It is perhaps most remarkable that the lozengy flag design has spread to a region of Bavaria which is not really Bavarian. Franconia (in German: Franken) covers the northern third of the state of Bavaria and is culturally and linguistically distinct from Bavaria proper in the south. Most of historical Franconia was incorporated into Bavaria in the beginning of the 19th Century, but there are also areas in the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Thuringia where people speak the Franconian dialect.

Franconia has its own regional flag (die Frankenflagge) with horizontal stripes, red and white, and the regional arms, the so-called Franconian Rake (der fränkische Rechen). This flag is common in the region. A version of the Franconian flag with a red-white lozengy pattern is also commercially available. Will the Bavarian lozenges spread further?

UEFA Euro 2016: Germany in Black and White

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Germany’s “National Eleven” don’t play in the national colours of black, red and gold. Instead the successful and popular team play in black and white. It has been so for more than a hundred years. The tradition and the colours date back to the time of the Kingdom of Prussia and its ruling family, the House of Hohenzollern. 

The German national football team is one of the world’s best: Four times winner of the FIFA World Cup, three times winner of the UEFA European Championship. Today they play Italy for a place in the UEFA Euro 2016 semifinals.

More than a 100 years ago, at the beginning of the 20th Century, the colours of the German national football team were established as white and black. (This tradition was only broken by the German Democratic Republic; from 1952 to 1990 the East German team played in white and blue.)

Black and white were the colours of Prussia and its royal family. In 1871 Prussia led the formation of the German Empire, and the King of Prussia became the federal head of state with the title of German Emperor.

The Royal House of Prussia, also known as the Hohenzollerns, trace their roots back almost a thousand years to the 11th Century. From the 15th Century onwards they ruled in Berlin and Brandenburg, later expanding both east and west. In 1701 the Kingdom of Prussia was established when Frederick I was crowned in Königsberg, the modern day Russian city of Kaliningrad.

The coat of arms of the Hohenzollern dynasty was quartered white and black. The coat of arms of Prussia was white with a black eagle. Both inspired the black and white flags of the provinces of East and West Prussia as well as the flag of the Kingdom of Prussia. From 1892 to 1918 the Prussian state flag was a horizontal tricolour of black-white-black; in the broader middle stripe a black eagle with the royal cypher of King Frederick I on its breast held the Royal Prussian crown, sceptre and orb in its claws.

Prussia was the dominant constituent country in the German Empire of 1871. The black-white-red tricolour adopted by the Empire as its national flag combined the black and white of Prussia with the red and white of the Hanseatic cities.

The royal colours of Germany’s football team were continued after the fall of the monarchy in 1918 at end of World War I. The Prussian state, with its black-white flag, also survived and was still the largest state in Germany under the republican Weimar Constitution. In 1947, though, Prussia was dissolved by the Allied Control Council following 12 years of Nazi dictatorship and a devastating war.

After World War II Germans regained some of their damaged national pride as the national football team of the young Federal Republic of Germany won the FIFA World Cup of 1954. “The Miracle of Bern” ended with a 3-2 win over Hungary in the final.

This day and age too many references to the historic state of Prussia and to the family of Germany’s last emperor may not be helpful. But it is still a great honour to wear the black and white colours of the Hohenzollern kings of Prussia on the football field. Nothing less than the best is expected of Germany’s team by millions of football fans.