Traffic light coalition
Traffic light coalition is a term originating in German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 politics where it describes a coalition
A coalition is a pact or treaty among individuals or groups, during which they cooperate in joint action, each in their own self-interest, joining forces together for a common cause. This alliance may be temporary or a matter of convenience. A coalition thus differs from a more formal covenant...

 of the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

 (SPD), the Free Democratic Party
Free Democratic Party (Germany)
The Free Democratic Party , abbreviated to FDP, is a centre-right classical liberal political party in Germany. It is led by Philipp Rösler and currently serves as the junior coalition partner to the Union in the German federal government...

 (FDP), and The Greens
Alliance '90/The Greens
Alliance '90/The Greens is a green political party in Germany, formed from the merger of the German Green Party and Alliance 90 in 1993. Its leaders are Claudia Roth and Cem Özdemir...

. It arises from the fact that the parties' traditional colours, respectively red, yellow, and green, resemble the normal colour sequence of a traffic light
Traffic light
Traffic lights, which may also be known as stoplights, traffic lamps, traffic signals, signal lights, robots or semaphore, are signalling devices positioned at road intersections, pedestrian crossings and other locations to control competing flows of traffic...

. It has subsequently been used to describe similar coalitions between social democrats
Social democracy
Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...

, liberals
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

, and greens
Green politics
Green politics is a political ideology that aims for the creation of an ecologically sustainable society rooted in environmentalism, social liberalism, and grassroots democracy...

 in other countries.


The phrase "traffic light coalition" is a direct translation of the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 word Ampelkoalition.

At a state
States of Germany
Germany is made up of sixteen which are partly sovereign constituent states of the Federal Republic of Germany. Land literally translates as "country", and constitutionally speaking, they are constituent countries...

 level, there have been two traffic light coalitions in Germany: in Brandenburg
Brandenburg is one of the sixteen federal-states of Germany. It lies in the east of the country and is one of the new federal states that were re-created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. The capital is Potsdam...

 between 1990 and 1994 and in Bremen
Bremen (state)
The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen is the smallest of Germany's 16 states. A more informal name, but used in some official contexts, is Land Bremen .-Geography:...

 between 1991 and 1995. Negotiations to form such a coalition in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 in 2001 were not successful.

At a federal
Federal republic
A federal republic is a federation of states with a republican form of government. A federation is the central government. The states in a federation also maintain the federation...

 level, however, to date no government has been formed on this basis. Historically, there have been 'red-green
Red-green alliance
In politics, a red-green alliance is an alliance of "red" social-democratic or democratic socialist parties with "green" environmentalist parties. The alliance is often based on common left political views, especially a shared distrust of corporate or capitalist institutions...

' coalitions in the Bundestag
The Bundestag is a federal legislative body in Germany. In practice Germany is governed by a bicameral legislature, of which the Bundestag serves as the lower house and the Bundesrat the upper house. The Bundestag is established by the German Basic Law of 1949, as the successor to the earlier...

 between the SPD and the Greens, and social-liberal coalition
Social-liberal coalition
Social-liberal coalition in Germany refers to a governmental coalition formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Free Democratic Party .The term stems from social democracy of the SPD and the liberalism of the FDP...

s 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
Economic liberalism
Economic liberalism is the ideological belief in giving all people economic freedom, and as such granting people with more basis to control their own lives and make their own mistakes. It is an economic philosophy that supports and promotes individual liberty and choice in economic matters and...

 and long association at the federal level with the conservative
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 Christian Democratic Union
Christian Democratic Union (Germany)
The Christian Democratic Union of Germany is a Christian democratic and conservative political party in Germany. It is regarded as on the centre-right of the German political spectrum...

 make such a coalition problematic at present and the FDP had specifically ruled out this option for the 2009 election

The term became more widely used outside Germany when the inconclusive 2005 federal election
German federal election, 2005
German federal elections took place on 18 September 2005 to elect the members of the 16th German Bundestag, the federal parliament of Germany. They became necessary after a motion of confidence in Chancellor Gerhard Schröder failed on 1 July...

 led to its use in the international media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

. The term Jamaica coalition was formed in a similar way.


In Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 the term Ampelkoalition has been borrowed from Germany to describe a theoretical coalition of the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party of Austria
The Social Democratic Party of Austria is one of the oldest political parties in Austria. The SPÖ is one of the two major parties in Austria, and has ties to trade unions and the Austrian Chamber of Labour. The SPÖ is among the few mainstream European social-democratic parties that have preserved...

 (SPÖ), the Liberal Forum
Liberal Forum
The Liberal Forum is a small classical liberal party in Austria. The party is currently led by Angelika Mlinar, and is a member of the Liberal International and the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party.-Founding:...

 (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.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 the term has been used to describe a coalition between the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party of England and Wales
Green Party of England and Wales
The Green Party of England and Wales is a political party in England and Wales which follows the traditions of Green politics and maintains a strong commitment to social progressivism. It is the largest Green party in the United Kingdom, containing within it various regional divisions including...

, notably that which currently runs the City of Lancaster
City of Lancaster
The City of Lancaster , is a local government district of Lancashire, England, with the status of a city and non-metropolitan district. It is named after its largest settlement, Lancaster, but covers a far larger area which includes the towns of Morecambe, Heysham, and Carnforth, as well as...

 district council
Non-metropolitan district
Non-metropolitan districts, or colloquially shire districts, are a type of local government district in England. As created, they are sub-divisions of non-metropolitan counties in a so-called "two-tier" arrangement...

. In Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, a similar coalition in the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

 involving the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties with the Scottish Green Party
Scottish Green Party
The Scottish Green Party is a green party in Scotland. It has two MSPs in the devolved Scottish Parliament, Alison Johnstone, representing Lothian, and Patrick Harvie, for Glasgow.-Organisation:...

 was mooted following the Scottish parliamentary election, 2003. 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
Unionists (Scotland)
Unionism in Scotland is the belief in that Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom in its present structure as one of the countries of the United Kingdom. There are many strands of political Unionism in Scotland, as well as sympathisers with Unionism in Northern Ireland...

 Labour and the Liberal Democrats and the pro independence
Scottish independence
Scottish independence is a political ambition of political parties, advocacy groups and individuals for Scotland to secede from the United Kingdom and become an independent sovereign state, separate from England, Wales and Northern Ireland....

 Scottish Greens. However, Green support collapsed in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election
Scottish Parliament election, 2007
The 2007 Scottish Parliament election was held on Thursday 3 May 2007 to elect members to the Scottish Parliament. It was the third general election to the devolved Scottish Parliament since it was created in 1999...

 rendering the Greens non-viable as a coalition partner, although they supported Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond
Alexander Elliot Anderson "Alex" Salmond MSP is a Scottish politician and current First Minister of Scotland. He became Scotland's fourth First Minister in May 2007. He is the Leader of the Scottish National Party , having served as Member of the Scottish Parliament for Gordon...

's election as First Minister
First Minister of Scotland
The First Minister of Scotland is the political leader of Scotland and head of the Scottish Government. The First Minister chairs the Scottish Cabinet and is primarily responsible for the formulation, development and presentation of Scottish Government policy...


As with their German counterparts, the colours of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens are respectively red, yellow, and green. In terms of the party's political positions, a red-yellow-green coalition may be more likely in the United Kingdom than in Germany, as the Liberal Democrats fit the social-democratic
Social democracy
Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...

, or at least social-liberal
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

, mould of their precursor party the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (UK)
The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

 and have worked with Labour in the last two Scottish Executive
Scottish Executive
The Scottish Government is the executive arm of the devolved government of Scotland. It was established in 1999 as the Scottish Executive, from the extant Scottish Office, and the term Scottish Executive remains its legal name under the Scotland Act 1998...

s. However, the first past the post electoral system that applies for general elections and many local elections in the United Kingdom, coupled with the Greens only having one MP, means that a traffic light coalition is highly unlikely at Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

 in the foreseeable future. Although the three parties continue to govern Lancaster, a similar coalition was suggested by some in Brighton and Hove after a By-election caused the Conservatives to lose their majority control. However this was rejected as doomed to fail due the slim margin over the Tories and concerns over the coalition's stability.

See also

  • Grand coalition
    Grand Coalition (Germany)
    In modern Germany, grand coalition describes a governing coalition of the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, as they are the two largest parties.-Weimar Republic:...

  • Social-liberal coalition
    Social-liberal coalition
    Social-liberal coalition in Germany refers to a governmental coalition formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Free Democratic Party .The term stems from social democracy of the SPD and the liberalism of the FDP...

  • Jamaica coalition
  • Red-green alliance
    Red-green alliance
    In politics, a red-green alliance is an alliance of "red" social-democratic or democratic socialist parties with "green" environmentalist parties. The alliance is often based on common left political views, especially a shared distrust of corporate or capitalist institutions...

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