Traffic light coalition

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Traffic light coalition (German: Ampelkoalition) is a term originating in German politics where it describes a coalition government of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and The Greens. It arises from the fact that the parties' traditional colours, respectively red, yellow, and green, resemble the normal colour sequence of a traffic light. It has subsequently been used to describe similar coalitions between social democrats, liberals, and greens in other countries.


The phrase "traffic light coalition" is a direct translation of the German word Ampelkoalition.

At a state level, there have been two traffic light coalitions in Germany: in Brandenburg between 1990 and 1994 and in Bremen between 1991 and 1995. Negotiations to form such a coalition in Berlin in 2001 were not successful.

At a federal level, however, to date no government has been formed on this basis. Historically, there have been 'red-green' coalitions in the Bundestag between the SPD and the Greens, and social-liberal coalitions between the SPD and the FDP. However, whilst there may be common ground in terms of social progressivism between the three parties, the FDP's economic liberalism and long association at the federal level with the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) make such a coalition problematic at present and the FDP had specifically ruled out this option for the 2009 election[1]

The term became more widely used outside Germany when the inconclusive 2005 federal election led to its use in the international media. The term Jamaica coalition was formed in a similar way, describing a hypothetical coalition between the CDU, FDP and Greens.

In Schleswig-Holstein a "Danish traffic light" (German: Dänen-Ampel) was formed after the 2012 state election, formed by the SPD, Greens and the South Schleswig Voter Federation, a regionalist minor party representing the Danish and Frisian minority in the state.

Traffic light coalitions in other countries[edit]


In Austria the term Ampelkoalition has been borrowed from Germany to describe a theoretical coalition of the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ), the Liberal Forum (LiF) and The Greens. However, as at this time the Liberal Forum's party colour was light blue, this is a reference to the political similarity between this coalition and a German traffic light coalition rather than to the party's actual symbolic colours. As the Liberal Forum lost its parliamentary representation in the 1999 Austrian elections such a coalition remains highly theoretical; nowadays its party colour is yellow, however.


Following the 2013 general election in Luxembourg, negotiations started with the aim of forming a three-party coalition government comprising the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP), the Democratic Party (DP) and The Greens in order to oust the Christian Social People's Party (CSV) of the incumbent Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. This variant on the traffic light coalition is known as a "Gambia coalition" (German: Gambia-Koalition), as the party colours match the flag of the Gambia,[2][3] as Luxembourg's liberal party (DP) uses blue as its party colour rather than yellow.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom the term has been used to describe a coalition between the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party of England and Wales, notably that which currently runs the City of Lancaster district council.[4] In Scotland, a similar coalition in the Scottish Parliament involving the Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrat parties with the Scottish Green Party was mooted following the 2003 Scottish Parliament election.[5] In that year Labour and the Liberal Democrats continued their coalition with a slender majority, and it was again the stated position of the Scottish Greens to aim for such a coalition in 2007, despite possible tension between the unionist Labour and the Liberal Democrats and the pro independence Scottish Greens. However, Green support collapsed in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election rendering the Greens non-viable as a coalition partner, although they supported Alex Salmond's election as First Minister.

See also[edit]