Mon Oct 12th, 2009 at 09:19:17 AM EST
Four weeks before the German federal elections, on 30 August, three much-noted regional elections were held. In two of the three, there were long coalition-forming negotiations between the three left-of-center parties -- but, in both cases, one partner shockingly switched to a coalition with the losers of the election, the conservative CDU, which previously governed both states with absolute majority.
I covered Thuringia in Why Social Democrats are just unfit for power, now some words about Saarland.
Saarland is the smallest non-city state, a coal-and-steel region at the border with France and Luxembourg. It used to be strongly SPD, until the local leader, Oskar Lafontaine, got in conflict with then chancellor Schröder over the latter's Third Wayism. Lafontaine was later instrumental in the formation of the Left Party (as a union of East German post-communists, West German anti-Harz-IV ex-SocDems, and assorted other hard-leftists) and became its leader. And he was also instrumental in getting more than 20% for the Left Party in the 30 August elections.
Unlike in Thuringia, the local SPD had no scruples seeking a coalition with their left flank. However, it wasn't them who had the options: it was the party coming in last, the Greens, who were free to give either SPD+Left Party or CDU+FDP the majority. And this past weekend, they decided for the latter. With that, a heretofore theoretical possibility in Germany's current five-party system, the 'Jamaica Coalition', is to have its premiere.
promoted by nanne
To explain the name: in German political colour-coding, the CDU is black, the (neo)liberal FDP is yellow; with the Greens' obvious colour, you get all three colours of Jamaica's flag.
As for the coalition mathematics, here are the election results:
|Turnout/Total|| 67.6%|| +12.1||51|| +/-0|
As you can see, government majority is 26 seats, and both the right-wing CDU+FDP block and the left-wing SPD+Left Party block have 24 seats.
Why did the local Greens prefer the conservatives?
- On one hand, the media said they are more conservative than the federal party (I hoped that this is wishful thinking, but that hope turned out to be my own wishful thinking).
- On the other hand, there is some bad blood between party members: after all, the one MP the Left Party had in the previous parliament was elected as a Green but switched parties.
- That bad blood is only added to a personal animosity vs. Lafontaine himself, which was enhanced by mutual negative campaigning.
What gave the final impetus was Oskar Lafontaine's decision last week to abandon federal politics and return to Saarland -- which would have meant that he'd become a virtual deputy prime minister.
- Finally, the CDU+FDP made a good offer.
The last point should be emphasized: unlike the Thuringia SPD, the Greens are to win a lot from their unnatural partners.
The Greens have been promised two ministries: the education ministry, and an environment-energy-transport super-ministry.
With the first, the Greens will be able to implement their leftist education reform -- what's more, they got a written promise that they can abolish the unpopular university tuition fees introduced by the CDU, which were one of the top themes of the campaign. With the second, they can stop the construction of planned new coal plants in the state, and possibly boost the until now sluggish spread of renewables.
Of course, for a party barely passing the 5% limit that goes against the popular will of electing off the incumbents, the move is still a very risky one. It is still possible that they will destroy themselves like the SPD did in the federal Grand Coalition, or as I expect the Thuringia SPD to do in the upcoming Grand Coalition there.