German election 2021: Governing coalition options
A German government needs a 50% majority in parliament, but no one party can get so much voter support. So they agree on coalitions — and the next government will be no exception. Here is an overview of the options.
Deciphering the color code
The center-right Christian Democrat CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU are symbolized by the color black. The center-left Social Democrat SPD is red, as is the socialist Left Party. The neoliberal Free Democrats' (FDP) color is yellow. And the Greens are self-explanatory. German media often refer to color combinations and national flags, using them as shorthand for political coalitions.
Black, red, green — the Kenya coalition
A coalition of center-right Christian Democrats (black) and center-left Social Democrats (red) plus the Green Party would secure a comfortable majority. Such a coalition has been in power in the state of Brandenburg. On a federal level this would be a first.
Black, yellow and green — the Jamaica coalition
The center-right Christian Democrats have often teamed up with the much smaller pro-free market Free Democrats (FDP) at the state and the national level over the years. Taking in the Greens to form a three-way coalition would be an option attractive to many in the CDU. But the Greens and the FDP do not make easy bedfellows, and a similar attempt failed after the last election in 2017.
Black, red, yellow — the Germany coalition
The center-right CDU and the center-left SPD plus the business-focused FDP. This combination would easily clear the 50% threshold in parliament, and would be the preferred option for business leaders and high-income earners. But if the SPD takes the lead we'd see red, black, yellow — a less conservative option.
Red, red, green
The Social Democrats teaming up with the Greens and the Left Party is a specter the conservatives like to raise whenever they perform badly in the polls. But the SPD and Left Party have a difficult history. And the Left's extreme foreign policy positions would likley hamper negotiations.
Red, yellow, green — a 'traffic light' coalition
The free-market-oriented liberal FDP has in the past generally ruled out federal coalitions sandwiched between the Social Democrats and the Greens. But this year, the FDP has not ruled out any options. Germany's traditional kingmaker party may above all be keen to return to power — no matter in which color combination.
Black and red, red and black — the 'grand coalition'
A "grand coalition" of CDU and SPD, the "big tent parties," has been in power for the past eight years with the conservatives taking the lead. If the election results allow it, this combination may continue in government ... with the stronger party naming the chancellor.