It was just before midnight on November 19 that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s dream of a so-called “Jamaica coalition” collapsed. The political constellation consisting of the conservative union parties (CDU/CSU), the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and the pro-environment Greens — whose colors together reflect those of the Caribbean country’s flag — was to not be. Christian Lindner, the FDP leader, stood up from the negotiating table in the Parliamentary Association building and declared that his party had had enough. The FDP could not support policies they didn’t believe in, he said. Outside, Lindner said a few words into the microphones, then vanished into the night.
Disappointed and aghast, the chancellor was left with the negotiators from her own Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, and the Greens. Merkel thought she had almost secured her fourth term in office, had believed the new Jamaica coalition was possible — and now this. Weeks of exploratory talks revealed political gulfs between the parties that even Merkel, the experienced strategist, couldn’t bridge.
So in 2017 Merkel failed to achieve what she had managed three times before: presenting a new cabinet a few weeks after the election and a sheaf of papers bearing the title “Coalition Agreement.” The new distribution of power in the Bundestag had left her with much less room to maneuver after the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered parliament for the first time, securing 12.6 percent of the vote.