After a long and impressive 12 year run at national helm, Angela Merkel’s center right CDU/CSU hit a snag last month, when the results of national elections were televised. The polls revealed a downturn in CDU/CSU performance compared to 2013 – indicating the party wouldn’t be able to attain absolute majority in the Bundestag, the national parliament. That, coupled with the rise of far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has caused palpable unease among Merkel’s cohort.
But the frenzy of elections has blown over and the focus among leading parties has now shifted to seeking out possible coalition partners. A possible ‘Jamaican Coalition’ (a partnership of CDU/CSU, FDU, and Greens), that would entail FDP and Greens entering torturous political negotiations with Merkel’s conservative block, is among the most likely scenarios and has thus been a subject of post-election analysis.
The three parties of so called ‘Jamaican coalition’ have previously never come together for coalition at the center – only governing the state of Saarland together during 2009-2012. Currently, they face disagreements over a range of issues like volume of migrant inflow, tax structure, environment policies, and EU reform. Accordingly, the proscribed coalition contract between the three that sets out policy and legislative priorities for upcoming government is expected be quite detailed and lengthy.
It should be noted that at the Federal level, the FDP will be expected to join a Merkel Government if given the option. The Green Party has never joined a government at the Federal level that has not been lead by the SPD.
Though Christian Lindner’s FDP and Merkel’s CDU/CSU share similar socioeconomic outlook and together form the Germany's center-right coalition that has governed the country at a federal level for the most part since independence, they’ve their share of nuanced differences over more than a few issues. Most notably, FDP’s recognition of Germany as a cosmopolitan society and and its embrace of immigration, a focus on entrepreneurship promotion, increased liberalization of economy, and critique of expansive welfare system form the key points of contention between the two. For its part, thus, the FDP is expected to respond cautiously to Merkel’s alliance overtures as its checkered political history with Kohl led CDU during the 1990s – during which it won between 6.2 and 11 percent of the vote in Bundestag elections – will serve to deter Lindner from embracing centrist conservatives and re-experiencing the electoral embarrassments of the past. The 1998 federal elections in which the CDU/CSU - FDP coalition lost, the FDP's nearly 30-year presence in government coalition came to a rather unceremonious end and marked a major setback in party’s history.
For Greens though, the core issue remains to be environment and climate change. While the FDP stands for market liberalization, the Greens advocate a strong welfare state, government investments and strict quotas for more environmentally conscious policies. Also, as the FDP calls for greater German investment in international security, the Greens argue for more spending to curb unemployment among European youth and improving education. On Europe, unlike CDU and FDP, the Greens oppose giving Frontex, Europe’s border control agency, more power and disagree with CDU and FDP on the idea that Germany ought to do more for its debt-stricken neighbors. Their manifesto instead proposes a Green New Deal for Europe to do away with austerity, investment in a circular economy, and digitalization of Europe. Another aspect of the possible Jamaican Coalition is the diverging views on immigration between the leftist greens and CDU’s populist Bavarian sister, CSU. It is therefore not far-fetched to say that under present circumstances, the possibilities of two coming together in a coalition are slim.
This is a Coalition formation that has never been tried in Germany. It will require calm and cool negotiations to ensure that the trade-offs to form the Coalition are brought together to deliver Germany the stable government required.
We do not believe another Grand Coalition is in the SPD's interests after going through another election with a falling vote share after another term in the 'grand' coalition. Most in the SPD see Opposition and the best way forward and to allow the 'Jamaica' option to be pursued in order to ensure the AfD is not the official Opposition.
The SPD and the Greens say that they would put any coalition deals to a vote of their members, raising the risk of new elections, given the strong grassroots resistance in both parties to a pact with Merkel. We would rate the chances of a new election at 10-15% in reality as our team and people on the ground know that the party who forces the new election will be the losers in it.