"Jamaica" – Coalition Fail

by Jonas Wolframm
Exploratory talks for “Jamaica” coalition fail – What is next to come?

On Sunday, the German Liberal Party single-handedly terminated the exploratory talks for a so-called “Jamaica” coalition, leaving the Greens and the Christian Democrats behind whilst raising the prospect of a new election next year.

The German Liberal Party (FDP) have single-handedly terminated the exploratory talks for a so-called “Jamaica” coalition in Germany, leaving the Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) behind whilst raising the prospect of a new election next year. Christian Lindner, Chairman of the FDP, justified the withdrawal of his party by citing a lack of trust amongst the involved negotiators. “Not governing ist better than governing wrongly”, Lindner told reporters after he left the place of the negotiation.

The failure of the exploratory talks leaves Germany in political turmoil. Regarding future government building the following four scenarios are currently imaginable:  

Scenario 1: A minority government

The collapse of the exploratory talks between the Liberals, the Greens and the Christian Democrats could result in a true novelty in German politics – a minority government. Until now, the country has never seen a minority government in power. Considering that the Social Democrats are not available for a coalition with the CDU/CSU, a minority government could be an option to consider for Angela Merkel. With whom? Perhaps with the Greens. The question is: how likely is that? The answer is: not very likely at all. In fact, as mentioned above, Germany has never had a minority government on the federal level. The only exception to that rule was a minority government in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia – and it failed in furious fashion. As a result, the German parties do not have any experience at all when it comes to this kind of government. And as of now, nobody has indicated that they want to make this kind of experience. Instead, all parties have in unison expressed that they think a minority government is unstable or even dangerous and therefore not suited for a country like Germany.

Scenario 2: New elections

The second and currently most likely scenario is that of new elections. Since the managing chancellor cannot ask the new Bundestag for a vote of confidence, there is only one way to hold new elections. The Federal President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, must propose a Chancellor candidate for election by the Bundestag. Since CDU/CSU build the strongest parliamentary group, this would be most likely Angela Merkel. In the first two ballots, she would need an absolute majority, in the third ballot, Merkel could be elected with a simple majority. If Merkel can manage to get an absolute majority, Steinmeier must appoint her. If she only gets elected by a simple majority, Steinmeier can decide within seven days whether to appoint her (which would mean a minority government) or to dissolve the parliament and order new elections. The new elections would have to be held within 60 days.

Regarding the possibility of a new election, Steinmeier said on Monday afternoon: "I expect everyone to be willing to talk to make it possible to form a government in the foreseeable future.” He added that the political responsibility of forming a government "cannot simply be returned to the voters.” To avoid a new election, Steinmeier has also announced talks with the chairpersons of all parties which could be considered for forming a government. Furthermore, he has proclaimed talks with constitutional organs like the presidents of the parliament, the Federal Council and the Federal Constitutional Court. How successful his call for the formation of a new government will be remains to be seen.

Scenario 3: Continuation of a “grand” coalition

After the failure of negotiations, the third possible option to reinstate Germany´s political ability to act could be the continuation of the so-called “Grand” coalition between CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats (SPD). In terms of figures, this would be a viable option, since both parties together have a clear majority in the German Bundestag. However, it is not that easy.

To begin with, the alliance with the CDU/CSU was a public relations disaster for the Social Democrats which ultimately led to the worst election result for the party since 1949. Hence, the desire to govern together with Merkel’s Christian Democrats once again is close to zero. In line with this position, Martin Schulz, chairman of the SPD, has ruled out another “grand” coalition and called for new elections in a press conference on Monday. Although the party itself is currently deeply estranged over its new strategic orientation, the Social Democrats seem to stand firmly behind the decision not to join a government under Chancellor Merkel.

On the contrary, minutes after Schulz´s announcement on Monday, the Federal President´s statement increased pressure on the SPD reminding the party of their responsibility to fulfill their electoral mandate.

Scenario 4: Resumption of Jamaica exploratory talks

As mentioned before, Steinmeier is reluctant to call new elections and has hence increased pressure on all parties to find another solution. Aside from the SPD, this also includes the “Jamaica” parties. However, due to the clear statement of the FDP after the breakup, it seems to be rather unlikely that the same party teams will continue to discuss the option of a common government.

If you wish to receive updates on the forthcoming Austrian coalition negotiations and staffing decisions in parliament and government or are interested in further information on RPP-Services please get in contact with us via j.wolframm@rpp-group.com. If you are interested in updates on German policy developments you can sign up for our German Election Newsletter here.