Traffic light coalition

Traffic light coalition

Traffic light coalition (German:"Ampelkoalition") is a term originating in German politics where it describes a coalition of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the Green Party. 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 socialists, 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 unsuccessful.

At a federal level, however, to date no government has been formed on this basis. Historically, there have been coalitions in the Bundestag between the SPD and the Greens, and between the SPD and the FDP. However, whilst there may be common ground in terms of social liberalism between the three parties, the FDP's market-oriented economic policies and long association at the federal level with the conservative Christian Democratic Union make such a coalition problematic at present.

The term became more widely used outside Germany when the inconclusive German federal election, 2005 led to its use in the international media.

Traffic light coalitions in other countries


In Austria the term "Ampelkoalition" has been borrowed from Germany to describe a theoretical coalition of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), the Liberal Forum 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 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. [,3605,1566749,00.html] In Scotland, a similar coalition in the Scottish Parliament involving the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties with the Scottish Green Party 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 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.

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 have traditionally tended to economics in the social democratic, or at least social liberal, mould of their precursor party the Social Democratic Party and have worked with Labour in the last two Scottish Executives. (Indeed, they are perceived as lying to the left of New Labour in some spheres). 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' failure to breakthrough at a national level, means that a traffic light coalition is highly unlikely at Westminster in the foreseeable future.


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