The May 7 regional elections in Schleswig-Holstein produced a familiar sight in German politics — a parliament in which no party held anything approaching an absolute majority. Coalition negotiations are now ongoing, and could take weeks.
However, while the composition of the state's government isn't clear, analysis of the prospective alliances that could eventually sprout may be help illuminate the potential shape of Germany's new government following the September 24 federal election. Below are the most likely options.
German polls now give a christian democrat-liberal-green "Jamaica" coalition (probably Merkel's most natural alliance) a Bundestag majority. pic.twitter.com/xgrXO0WuYQ— Jeremy Cliffe (@JeremyCliffe) May 9, 2017
On paper, this motley assortment of parties including the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Greens, seems bizarre — two center-right pro-business parties, and one left-leaning environmentally-focused one. It's an extreme rarity in German politics — such a coalition has never governed the country, or been publicly considered as one. However, it has governed a single state (Saarland) once (from 2009 — 2012) — and it could well take the helm in Schleswig-Holstein.
However, even if Green national leaders are amenable to the prospect, its voters and membership is likely to balk, preferring instead a "traffic light" coalition (see below).
This — the union of Germany's two largest parties — is perhaps the likeliest outcome. Voters currently see the alliance as the least worst option, with the competent, established hands complementing each others' strengths and balancing each others' weaknesses.
Chancellor Angela Merkel enters the election presiding over a Grand Coalition, a form of government she has run in two of her three terms. Moreover, almost every German state has been governed by this combination at some point (although as of May 2017, only Saarland has such a government).
Now this is a shocker— JeremIndy (@WeAreThe59) March 12, 2017
CDU and SPD neck to neck in this week's German polling
But only workable outcome remains 'Grand coalition' pic.twitter.com/OJcsPTy5f4
A coalition of the CDU, Greens and SPD would, in party aesthetic terms, mirror the flag of Afghanistan. This option would be highly welcome for many on the German left — the SPD reigning in the CDU's conservative excesses, and the Greens injecting the government (well, the Environment Ministry at the very least) with a strong ecological pedigree.
However, if polls are correct and the titans of the SPD and CDU take over half of the vote, it's doubtful the SPD, much less the CDU, will crave Green support — although, such a coalition has historical precedent. In the 2016 elections in Saxony-Anhalt, the SPD and CDU were just short of a majority, and the sliver of Green MPs in the chamber pushed them over the finish line.
The coalition of the CDU and Free Democratic Party is arguably modern Germany's classic governmental recipe — the black and yellow duo has governed the country for the majority of its post-war history, with CDU Chancellor Helmut Kohl leading five such governments from 1982 — 1998.
However, the FDP's fortunes have sharply declined since their previous spell in government (under Merkel's stewardship, 2009 — 2013) — the party polls at around 6.5 percent nationally, and the buzzy twosome enters the election not governing a single state together.
@Brendan_Noble Fingers crossed for a Black and Yellow! But Jamaica ain't that bad. German Greens are not as bad as the Greens in the rest of Europe.— Mariano Marx (@MarianoMarx_) May 7, 2017
Conversely, the coalition between the SPD and Greens is Germany's standard center-left government, calling on support from both traditional social democratic voters and progressive, metropolitan liberals. The two parties have shared power numerous times, most notably between 1998 — 2005 under the charismatic, popular leadership of SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
However, the pair have now left politics, and the fortunes of both parties have declined nationally — and polling puts the SPD at 21.9 percent and the Greens at 12.2 percent, leaving the two well short of a majority.
Simply Red… and Green
This alliance, of the Left Party, SPD and Greens, would surely turn Merkel a deep, raging red — for it would be kryptonite to right-wing national politics in Germany, for as long as it was in power.
Although, given the coalition would likely be shaky, that may not be very long. While the SPD and Greens both identify as left-leaning, the actual Left party may well be a little strong for their tastes, given many German voters continue to associate it with the fallen German Democratic Republic. Nonetheless, it almost certainly represents Schulz's sole means of becoming Chancellor.
No such government has ever ruled Germany nationally, but the grouping did take control of Berlin's city government in 2016 — and Thuringia's state government in 2014 — although the appetite for such a coalition across wider Germany is likely to be somewhat limited. Not every region of the country is as open-minded as the uber-bohemian capital.
This truly would be a "grand" coalition — if only in terms of diversity, as it would see the SPD, FDP, and Greens join forces. As such, it is perhaps the unlikeliest combination of all. The classical liberal FDP would be the smallest party, and the only committed free market entity in the bloc. Whether it's a possibility depends on the FDP — as the party's bigger partners would likely drown out all its key economic proposals, the FDP joining them would require it to place a desire for a seat in government before ideology.
That doesn't seem likely. National and state leaders, including Guido Westerwelle and Wolfgang Kubicki, have explicitly ruled out the prospect.
Right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) does not appear, as every German party has explicitly stated it will refuse to share power with the group.