From Kenya to Jamaica: Which coalitions are possible after the German election?

Germany is abuzz with talk of traffic lights, Jamaican flags and other nicknames that describe the hotchpotch of possible coalitions that could be formed after Sunday's election.

From Kenya to Jamaica: Which coalitions are possible after the German election?
Christian Lindner (FDP), Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Annalena Baerbock take part in a panel discussion of the Federal Association of Energy and Water Management on energy and climate policy on September 16th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

As the country goes to the polls in its first election for 16 years without Angela Merkel, surveys show the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) ahead on around 25 percent, with Merkel’s CDU-CSU conservative alliance on around 22 percent.

But to govern alone in Germany, a party must have a majority of more than 50 percent.

As a result, whoever wins will need the support of at least one and probably two other parties to govern.

With the margin between the SPD and the CDU-CSU expected to be close on Sunday, both parties could separately begin discussions with smaller parties.

Traffic light

One outcome could see the SPD heading a “traffic light” coalition, a grouping with the Greens – currently polling at around 17 percent – and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), on around 11 percent.

The nickname comes from their party colours of red, green and yellow.

But the liberal party, which has been gaining confidence in opposition under charismatic young leader Christian Lindner, is not a natural bedfellow with left-leaning parties.

Lindner has said the FDP’s two red lines would be no tax hikes and reverence for Germany’s cherished debt brake, lifted during the pandemic – two policies that could be hard to swallow for the SPD and the Greens.


The SPD could also potentially opt for a “red-green-red” coalition with the Greens and the hard-left Die Linke, polling on around six percent.

READ ALSO: Election 2021: What an SPD-led coalition could mean for foreigners in Germany

SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz has been under pressure to rule out working with Die Linke, which evolved out of the former East German communist party and has some controversial policies, including opposition to NATO.

But although he has said he would not be willing to compromise Germany’s NATO membership, Scholz has not completely ruled out a partnership with the leftists.


A coalition led by the CDU-CSU would be more palatable for the liberals, but the two parties will almost certainly need a third to make up the numbers.

READ ALSO: Election 2021: What a CDU-led coalition could mean for foreigners in Germany

The most obvious candidate here is the Greens, which would result in a “Jamaica” coalition named after the gold, green and black of that country’s flag.

Drivers pass campaign posters from the Left, the FDP, the Greens, SPD and CDU. Which of these could work together after the election? Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

On the other hand, when those three parties were in talks to form a coalition after Germany’s last election in 2017, the FDP dramatically walked out over disagreements on migration and energy policy.

GroKo, again

Germany’s last two governments have been formed of a coalition between the conservative CDU-CSU and the SPD, known as a “grand coalition” or GroKo in German, as these have traditionally been the country’s two biggest parties.

Another grand coalition could technically be an option, albeit most likely with the SPD as the biggest party this time.

However, Scholz has previously ruled this out and in a recent TV interview said his “whole aim” was “for the CDU-CSU to get a chance to rest in opposition”.

Kenya or Germany

A grouping of the SPD, the CDU-CSU and the Greens could also be a possibility, known as a “Kenya” coalition, as the colours would match the black, red and green of that country’s flag.

The SPD could also seek to team up with the CDU-CSU and the FDP – to form a coalition whose colours match Germany’s own black, red and gold national banner.

Wild cards

If the SPD and the Greens both do slightly better than expected, there is a chance they could form a coalition alone — which would certainly make things easier.

If no one can agree, a minority government is also a possibility.

But whatever happens, there are likely to be many weeks of haggling, flirting and backstabbing to come in the weeks after September 26th.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Who could be in Germany’s next coalition government?

By Femke Colborne

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Germany’s ‘traffic light’ parties sign coalition agreement in Berlin

Two and a half months after the federal elections on September 26th, the three parties of the incoming 'traffic light' coalition - the SPD, Greens and FDP - have formally signed their coalition agreement at a public ceremony in Berlin.

Traffic light coalition
Germany's next Chancellor Olaf Scholz (front, left) on stage in Berlin with other members of the new coalition government, and their signed agreement. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The move marks the final stage of a 10-week week process that saw the three unlikely bedfellows forming a first-of-its-kind partnership in German federal government. 

The SPD’s Olaf Scholz is now due to be elected Chancellor of Germany on Wednesday and his newly finalised cabinet will be sworn in on the same day. This will mark the end of the 16-year Angela Merkel era following the veteran leader’s decision to retire from politics this year. 

Speaking at the ceremony in Berlin on Tuesday morning, Scholz declared it “a morning when we set out for a new government.”

He praised the speed at which the three parties had concluded their talks and said the fight against the Covid crisis would first require the full strength of the new coalition.

Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck, who is set to head up a newly formed environment and energy ministry, said the goal was “a government for the people of Germany”.

He stressed that the new government would face the joint challenge of bringing climate neutrality and prosperity together in Europe’s largest industrial nation and the world’s fourth largest economy.

Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock spoke of a coalition agreement “on the level of reality, on the level of social reality”.

FDP leader Christian Lindner, who managed to secure the coveted role of Finance Minister in the talks, declared that now was the “time for action”.

“We are not under any illusions,” he told people gathered at the ceremony. “These are great challenges we face.”

Scholz, Habeck and Lindner are scheduled to hold  a press conference before midday to answer questions on the goals of the new government.

‘New beginnings’

Together with the Greens and the FDP, Scholz’s SPD managed in a far shorter time than expected to forge a coalition that aspires to make Germany greener and fairer.

The Greens became the last of the three parties to agree on the contents of the 177-page coalition agreement an in internal vote on Monday, following approval from the SPD and FDP’s inner ranks over the weekend.

“I want the 20s to be a time of new beginnings,” Scholz told Die Zeit weekly, declaring an ambition to push forward “the biggest industrial modernisation which will be capable of stopping climate change caused by mankind”.

Putting equality rhetoric into practice, he unveiled the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet on Monday, with women in key security portfolios.

“That corresponds to the society we live in – half of the power belongs to women,” said Scholz, who describes himself as a “feminist”.

READ ALSO: Scholz names Germany’s first gender-equal cabinet

The centre-left’s return to power in Europe’s biggest economy could shift the balance on a continent still reeling from Brexit and with the other major player, France, heading into presidential elections in 2022.

But even before it took office, Scholz’s “traffic-light” coalition – named after the three parties’ colours – was already given a baptism of fire in the form of a fierce fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Balancing act
Dubbed “the discreet” by left-leaning daily TAZ, Scholz, 63, is often described as austere or robotic.
But he also has a reputation for being a meticulous workhorse.
An experienced hand in government, Scholz was labour minister in Merkel’s first coalition from 2007 to 2009 before taking over as vice chancellor and finance minister in 2015.
Yet his three-party-alliance is the first such mix at the federal level, as the FDP is not a natural partner for the SPD or the Greens.

Keeping the trio together will require a delicate balancing act taking into account the FDP’s business-friendly leanings, the SPD’s social equality instincts and the Greens’ demands for sustainability.

Under their coalition deal, the parties have agreed to secure Germany’s path to carbon neutrality, including through huge investments in sustainable energy.

They also aim to return to a constitutional no-new-debt rule – suspended during the pandemic – by 2023.

FDP cabinets
Volker Wissing (l-r), FDP General Secretary und designated Transport Minister, walks alongside Christian Lindner, FDP leader and designated Finance Minister, Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP), the incoming Education Minister, and Marco Buschmann, the incoming Justice Minister. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler


Incoming foreign minister Annalena Baerbock of the Greens has vowed to put human rights at the centre of German diplomacy.

She has signalled a more assertive stance towards authoritarian regimes like China and Russia after the commerce-driven pragmatism of Merkel’s 16 years in power.

Critics have accused Merkel of putting Germany’s export-dependent economy first in international dealings.

Nevertheless she is still so popular at home that she would probably have won a fifth term had she sought one.

The veteran politician is also widely admired abroad for her steady hand guiding Germany through a myriad of crises.