Germany has five major political parties, with their own traditional colours:
- CDU/CSU (Black/Blue): actually a political grouping of two parties, known generally as "The Union", the latter is essentially a Bavarian version of the former and they do not stand against each other, but there are policy differences. The Christlich Demokratische Union (Christian Democratic Union) is a Christian Democratic Party. Not quite the same thing as a conservative party- you will get one or the other in Europe, but not both- it is a non-denominational party, which opposes Turkey entering the EU. Its leader Angela Merkel is the current Chancellor. Chancellor Number 8, she is the first female Chancellor and the first "Ossie" (former East German) in that role. Four other chancellors also were in the CDU: Konrad Adenauer (first chancellor; "the old one", being almost 90 years old when he retired), Ludwig Erhard (the fat one with the cigar; very successful in building up the economy after the war, less successful as chancellor), Kurt Georg Kiesinger (the "silver-tongued one" who was once a member of the NSDAP and made a grand coalition with the SPD), Helmut Kohl (the really big one, united Germany, favorite target for jokes, parodies, caricatures, and so on- his surname means "cabbage").
- SPD (Red): Social-Democrat party. Once a real left party, they gradually scrapped the Socialist ideas (as did Labour in Britain under Tony Blair). Three chancellors were in the SPD so far: Willy Brandt (made the famous Ostverträge - treaties with the East and also commissioned the Brandt Report on the North-South divide), Helmut Schmidt, and Gerhard Schröder (cigar-smoking "Genosse der Bosse" - "comrade of the bosses"). Currently the main opposition.
- FDP- (Freie Demokratische Partei-Free Democratic Party- yellow), a liberal party (folks from the USA and Canada should read that as "libertarian") and coalition partners to the CDU/CSU. Occasionally, also to the SPD. In some lands even including the Greens.
- Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance 90/The Greens, colour obvious)- A combination of the old West German Green Party and a collection of GDR civil rights activists, it is the most successful such party in the world. Partnered with the SPD in the Schröder era, the German involvement in the 1999 war against Yugoslavia led to some resignations from the party. The most famous Green politician is former Foreign Minister Joseph Martin "Joschka" Fischer, a former Marxist who was witnessed throwing a brick at a policeman during a riot when he was younger, was sworn in as the Hesse Minister of the Environment wearing sneakers (currently at a museum), and famously told the Vice-President of the Bundestag, "Mit Verlaub, Herr Präsident, Sie sind ein Arschloch" ("With respect, Mr. President, you are an asshole"). (He remains one of the most popular and respected politicians in Germany, across party lines.) In 2011, the Greens "won" an election for the first time in traditionally-CDU Baden-Württemberg; although they were only the second-largest party in the Landtag after the election (up from third), they were also the only party to gain seats and will be providing the next Minister-President.
- Die Linke (The Left, Red - or pink, since red is already assigned to the SPD). The old Socialist Unity Party (SED) that ran East Germany lost most of its old members and renamed itself to PDS. When it eventually merged with the WASG, a small western party consisting mostly of former SPD-members, it got more popular. They do much better in the former GDR states, although they did very well in the 2009 state elections in the traditionally-CDU Saarland, becoming the third-largest party in the Landtag.
These are not the sole parties, of course. Of particular note are the Neo-Nazi parties. Nazi parties (as other anti-democratic / anti-human rights parties) are prohibited by Article 21 of the Basic Law, but these groups are still around and have grown in recent years, especially in the former GDR - until a series of shady party financing incidents lead to them verging on bankruptcy and taking a nose-dive in the last few elections. The No Swastikas
law means that they instead use the flag of Imperial Germany
The Piratenpartei (Pirate Party, orange colour) got 2% in the recent federal election and is the biggest party not in the parliament - it's not yet clear whether they'll stay around for longer. It got in the recent election of Berlin's state diet 9% which makes it the first state diet they can enter.
The 2005 election, called after Schröder arranged to deliberately lose a vote of confidence, a controversial act the German Constitutional Court looked at and accepted, resulted in neither the "Black-Yellow" (Union/FDP) or "Red-Green" (SPD/Green) having a majority. With PDS/The Left refusing to play with anyone (or the other way round), the FDP not interested in a "Traffic-Light Coalition" (SPD/FDP/Green, or Red-Yellow-Green) and the Greens not happy about a "Jamaica Coalition" (Union-FDP-Green, their colours are those of the Jamaican
flag), the only option was a Grand Coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD. Merkel became Bundeskanzlerin
. Schröder left the scene.
The 2009 election resulted in the CDU/CSU and FDP gaining enough seats to form a governing coalition. However both CDU and SPD suffered their worst result in a democratic election ever, while the FDP got far more votes than ever before. However internal conflicts in the government started to arise just a few weeks later, and three months after the election polls showed that support for the FDP had dropped by 75%. Since then, prospects have gotten much, much worse for the government, with the CDU/CSU's poll numbers going into steady decline, although Merkel herself remains fairly popular. If current trends hold—and there is some talk (not much, but some) of having elections well before the October 2013 deadline—the results of the Baden-Württemberg election in 2011 may well prove to be prophetic: the Greens have come within striking distance of the SPD (whose support has been hovering in the 22%-26% range since early 2011) in most recent polls. Since the Baden-Württemberg election, the Greens have, with one exception, either been statistically tied with the SPD or slightly ahead of them, indicating that Germans increasingly see them as a party of government.
The 2013 election in some ways was a reversal of 2009. Both the SPD and CDU/CSU gained seats at the expense of the Greens, the Left, and the FPD. Indeed, the CDU were only 5 seats short of an absolute majority. Their traditional coalition partners, the FDP, did not even clear the 5% threshold needed to get seats and thus received no seats in the Federal Parliament. Although the SPD gained 47 seats, their likely coalition partner, the Greens, lost seats so a Red/Green coalition wouldn't have enough seats. As of December 2013 coalition negotiations are still ongoing, but it's likely there will be another CDU/SPD grand coalition with Merkel as Chancellor.