Germany's Jamaica bombshell, one year on
On November 19, 2017, the center-right Free Democrats (FDP) abruptly announced that they were pulling out of coalition talks with the conservatives and the Greens. German politics hasn't been the same since.
An experiment that ended before it began
One year ago, shortly before midnight on November 19, 2017, talks over for a first-of-its kind "Jamaica coalition" of conservatives, the center-right FDP and the Greens in the national government broke down. No one anticipated it at the time, but this event would dramatically change the German political landscape.
Jamaica an attractive option after the October 2017 national election
After four years of a Angela Merkel-led "grand coalition" between the conservative CDU/CSU and Social Democrats (SPD), voters were clearly less than enthusiastic about more of the same. Both of these big parties lost support, and a Jamaica coalition — named after the colors of that country's flag — seemed to offer a fresh approach to government.
The FDP rains on the other two parties' parade
But FDP chairman Christian Lindner, never a great fan of conservative chancellor Angela Merkel, felt his party was getting short shrift and pulled the plug on the miserably wet night of November 19, 2017. "It's better not to govern than to govern wrongly," said Lindner in announcing the talks were toast.
Merkel turns back to her old adversary and ally
Merkel had little choice but to try to form another partnership with the SPD and her former rival Martin Schulz, who had ruled out extending the grand coalition. The only realistic alternative would have been fresh elections, which neither conservatives nor Social Democrats wanted after the drubbing they'd just received.
The first casualty in the post-Jamaica fallout
A deal between Merkel's conservatives and Social Democrats was done eventually, but it came at a high price. There was a lot of opposition within the SPD to the coalition agreement, and Schulz was forced to step down as party chairman after one too many flip-flops, making him, arguably, Jamaica's first fall guy.
The coalition parties come crashing down in opinion polls
Critics say that the current grand coalition came in the face of what voters indicated they wanted. Whatever the case, support for both Merkel's conservatives and the SPD has plummeted. The SPD is down to 14 percent in opinion polls — a catastrophe for Germany's oldest political party.
Even the chancellor feels the pull of gravity
The popular Angela Merkel has also lost her aura of invincibility. After two very poor regional election results, and with her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) polling only around 26 percent, the four-time chancellor says this term in office will be her last, and she's stepping down as party chairwoman. Had Jamaica succeeded, Merkel would probably be in much better shape politically.
And the big winner is...the Greens!
Initially, the party that seemed to beenfit most from the failure of Jamaica was the far-right AfD. But over the past year, the Greens have nearly tripled their level of support — from 8.9 percent in the 2017 election to 23 percent in the most recent opinion polls. Meanwhile, support for the FDP has declined from 10.7 to 8 percent.
Return of Jamaica?
There has been speculation that if the grand coalition were to fall apart, conservatives, the FDP and the Greens could give Jamaica another shot in this legislative period. But don't hold your breath. Whereas the Greens were willing to entertain the idea of such a three-way partnership last year, given their current popularity, it would be far more in their interest to have fresh elections.
The black-yellow-green wave of the future?
But just because Jamaica failed in 2017, that doesn't mean it's been consigned to the ash heap of history. Indeed, with Germany's political landscape becoming ever more fragmented, three-way coalitions are likely going to become increasingly necessary. So unsuccessful as it may have been, the 2017 Jamaica talks may prove to be a dry run for the future.