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With the SPD declaring itself unwilling to enter another coalition with the CDU/CSU, the only

majority would seem to be a three-way alliance between the conservatives, the Greens and the
Free Democrats (FDP).
Called a "Jamaic
a coalition" because the party colors correspond to that country's flag, such a constellation
would re
present something new and different in German national politics. But there's a catch.
Traditionally these two parties hate each others' guts.
"The FDP and the Greens both claim the same territory," Jrgen Dittberner - a professor
emeritus of political science with connections to the FDP - told DW. "And competitors often
aren't very nice to one
Despite some recent attempts to tone down the animosity, Greens and Liberals, as the FDP are
also known, have a long tradition of sniping at one another - sometimes in sandbox fashion.
The Greens, for instance, have produced parodies of FDP campaign posters depicting Liberal
top candidate , while Liberals rarely resist mocking Greens as tree-hugging know-it-alls. Old
habits die hard.
The animosity has as much to do with past origins as with present policies. Founded in 1948,
the FDP goes back to the beginnings of the Federal Republic of Germany. The party for a long
time was the third force and kingmaker in German politics, occupying the centrist political
space between the union of conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian
Christian Social Union
(CSU) sister party, and the Social Democrats - forming coalitions with both.
When the Greens rose to prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s, entering the Bundestag
in 1983, they challenged the Free Democrats' status. Moreover, the rise of the left-wing Greens
coincided with the Liberals' turn to the right, demarcated by the party's abandonment of SPD
Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and its partnership with his conservative replacement Helmut
Kohl. A perceived dichotomy established itself between the pro-business, laissez-faire FDP and
the environmentalist, anti-big-government Greens.
"The Greens were founded at a later point and promote non-materialistic goals, while the FDP
is more of a party representing older people and the first half of the Federal Republic,"
Dittberner explained.
The rivalry often had a personal character. The Liberals seethed when the Greens got their first
crack at government in a coalition with the Social Democrats under Gerhard Schrder. The
Greens burst into applause in front of TV cameras after the 2013 national election, when it was
announced that the FDP had failed to clear the five-percent hurdle members needed for
parliamentary representation. FDP haven't forgotten that.
The irony is that over time the parties have come to be mirror images in many ways. Prominent
members of the FDP defected to the Greens and vice versa, and nowadays they both appeal
primarily to affluent white-collar voters. The generational conflict has also been reversed. The
Greens' lead candidate
s, Cem zdemir and Katrin Gring-Eckardt are both 51 years old, while Lindner is only 38.
Could that help build bridges between the rivals?
Both Lindner and Gring-Eckardt declared ahead of the election that they "lacked the
imagination" to picture a collaboration with the Greens, but in the traditional TV roundtable
after the results were annou
nced on September 24, there were signs of rapprochement. In what might have been a
harbinger moment, Lindner said that the Liberals had "no problem" with Green-
style environmentalism, a statement that drew a positive response from Gring Eckardt.
Markus Lning, a former FDP member of the Bundestag who was also previously a Green, says
there is considerable common ground in policy.
"There are large overlaps, as I know very well from my work on civil liberties," Lning told DW.
"There's a whole series of points where they agree, and both have the same impulse to reform
and modernize the country."
Lning says that the FDP and the Greens could agree on a joint agenda. For example, he
says, by marrying Liberals' demands to expand Germany's digital network with the Greens'
proposals for using technology to increase sustainability, it could bring fresh air to a new
government under Ch

ancellor Angela Merkel. And there is a regional precedent for a Jamaica coalition. In the
northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, the conservatives, FDP and Greens concluded a coalition
agreement in June, and the initial reviews are glowing.
"Everyone likes it and wants it to succeed," the leader of that coalition, conservative state
premier Daniel Gnther, told Spiegel magazine before the national election.

Needs must. In view of the outcome of the national vote, Jamaica has emerged as the most
likely form for the new government. But can all the parties agree? Lning says: Why not?
"The time is ripe," he explained. "The FDP has changed in the past four years, and the Greens
have changed, too, over the years and decades."
But Oskar Niedermayer, possibly Germany's leading expert on political parties, says that there
are still "dramatic differences" between the Liberals and Greens on issues ranging from
refugees to the combustion engine to domestic security and the EU.
Even if the Liberals and Greens make peace, Niedermayer adds, the latter would have trouble
co-existing with the more right-wing CSU.
"The FDP are somewhat more flexible in their demands - they could make compromises,"
Niedermayer said. "But the CSU and the Greens have drawn lines in the sand, for example, on
the combustion engine
e and coal-burning power plants."
"Forming a government," he said with a somewhat mischievous smile, "is going to be a lot more
exciting than the election itself."