Big coalition

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A grand coalition (also known as a grand coalition ) is usually a government coalition of the parties with the largest number of seats in parliament . The term is mainly used in Germany and Austria .


Depending on the political system or party system , a coalition of the two largest parties can be a coalition of the narrowest majority or result in a minority government . For Western European states, the term is usually used to describe a coalition between the two largest parties in a party system dominated by two so-called people 's parties, in which, mathematically, smaller coalitions would have been possible.

Large coalitions are sometimes controversial because, in the opinion of the critics, they have too much government power and, due to their breadth, require too many compromises . On the other hand, a grand coalition creates the opportunity to push through some urgently needed reform projects even if those affected perceive their side effects as severely negative, such as tax increases , subsidy or pension cuts. A strong opposition would attack these projects - be it out of conviction or for political party reasons - and possibly prevent them.

Grand coalitions are often formed for one or more of the following reasons or motives:

  • as a stopgap solution if, due to the balance of power, no clear, ideologically founded parliamentary majorities are formed, especially in countries with a large number of parties.
  • Defensive movements against aggressive small or fringe parties, which z. B. in the 20th century led several times to a grand coalition in Austria .
  • foreign policy or general political crises . Many states each had grand coalitions in the two world wars. For example, the UK had an all party government .


Weimar Republic

In the Weimar Republic , the two Cabinets Stresemann I and II (1923) and the Cabinet Müller II (1928–1930) were referred to as grand coalitions . The word “big” meant that the SPD on the left and the DVP on the right were involved. Most of the time, a coalition of the DDP and the center ruled during the Weimar period , expanding either to the left (SPD) or to the right (DVP, DNVP ). A bourgeois minority government was often tolerated by the SPD. Seen in this way, this model was the actual “ Weimar coalition“, Even if one generally means something else with this term: the three republic loyal parties SPD, Zentrum and DDP, which since the Reichstag election on June 6, 1920 no longer had a common majority. There were also large coalitions at the state level . The most famous of these are the SPD center governments in the Free State of Prussia (→ Free State of Prussia # Grand Coalition ).

GDR 1990

Under Lothar de Maizière, after lengthy negotiations, a grand coalition was formed from the Alliance for Germany (an electoral alliance formed from the Christian-Democratic Union (CDU-East), German Social Union (DSU) and Democratic Awakening (DA)), the SPD and the liberals . On April 12, 1990, Lothar de Maizière (CDU) was elected Prime Minister of the GDR by the People's Chamber with 265 votes, 108 against and 9 abstentions. The MPs then also confirmed the de Maizière government en bloc .

On August 20, the Social Democrats left the government after de Maizière had announced the dismissal of an SPD minister among others. The government thus consisted only of non-party ministers as well as those from the Alliance and the Liberals; in the Federal Republic one would speak of a Christian-liberal coalition. The government could no longer rely on a “grand” coalition.

On August 23, 1990, the GDR joined the Federal Republic with effect from October 3, 1990, and the People's Chamber was dissolved. Its legislative period therefore only lasted a good six months. The first all-German federal election followed on December 2, 1990.

Federal Republic

Since the parties CDU / CSU and SPD had previously made up the largest parliamentary groups in the Federal Republic , grand coalitions usually consisted of these two parties. Due to their colors in the party spectrum, they are colloquially called black-red or red-black . CDU and SPD coalitions are often referred to as grand coalitions even if they do not represent the two largest parties. Other coalitions of two numerically largest parties in parliament, e.g. B. SPD and Left ( red-red coalition ), SPD and Greens ( red-green coalition) or the Greens and CDU ( green-black coalition ) are not referred to as a grand coalition .

Grand Coalition 1966–1969

In the 1950s, the CDU / CSU dominated the West German party landscape, but in 1961 again had to enter into a coalition with the FDP . In 1962, in the course of the Spiegel affair, the coalition was called into question. Christian Democrats and Social Democrats discussed a grand coalition very seriously, not just, as critics said, because Konrad Adenauerthe FDP wanted to discipline. Adenauer rightly assumed that the SPD would accept him as chancellor in order to get into the government (the FDP wanted a new chancellor). Other Christian Democrats like Building Minister Paul Lücke thought above all of introducing the majority electoral system together with the SPD. In the end, however, the coalition parties CDU / CSU and FDP agreed to continue the coalition until Adenauer was replaced by Erhard in autumn 1963.

The (first) grand coalition came about after the coalition of CDU / CSU and FDP broke up because the CDU / CSU wanted to curb the budget deficit and the ever increasing national debt in the 1967 budget by increasing taxes . The FDP was not ready for this and therefore left the coalition in October 1966. After the resignation of the FDP ministers, the CDU / CSU started negotiations with the SPD, which, after considering a social-liberal coalition, decided to cooperate with the CDU, whereupon the grand coalition was concluded on December 1, 1966 (see also German Bundestag # Fifth Bundestag (1965–1969) ).

The government was led by the former Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, Kurt Georg Kiesinger , who succeeded the ultimately hapless Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard . In the Kiesinger cabinet , the SPD chairman Willy Brandt became Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister .

The grand coalition was faced with three major tasks during the remaining time for the next election (September 28, 1969):

  1. the restructuring of the budget and the containment of the national debt as well as the fight against the first recession after 1945. The coalition managed to get the economy going again very quickly, which was mainly thanks to Franz Josef Strauss and Karl Schiller , who were in the Public nicknames " Plisch and Plum " held. The implementation of a financial reform proved to be more difficult. It succeeded in 1969 and created the basic features of the financial constitution of the Basic Law that are still valid today . As a result, it established the tax network from income and corporation tax as well as sales tax. From now on, the state share of sales tax was based on the residents. TheState financial equalization was revised. Finally, the constitutionally controversial area of ​​mixed financing received a new constitutional basis with the introduction of joint tasks , the regulation of cash benefit laws and federal investment aid. In addition, planning elements were introduced into the Basic Law. The Medium-term financial planning and the Haushaltsgrundsätzegesetz be mentioned here.
  2. the Allies' rights to intervene in Germany's sovereignty should be replaced. They demanded the adoption of the so-called emergency laws in order to ensure the safety of their troops stationed in Germany. The necessary amendment of the Constitution one was two-thirds majority needed in parliament. Opinions were divided on this in particular, as it was now possible for the government to temporarily suspend fundamental rights during a national emergency . The extra-parliamentary opposition(APO) took up this topic and vented their displeasure on the street. The phenomenon that parts of the youth rebelled, however, existed in other Western countries as well as emergency laws.
  3. was a target of the grand coalition, the majority voting system for UK and US-model introduction, so that after elections always a party the absolute majority held have, and one is no longer dependent on coalition negotiations. However, this plan failed in the end because of the SPD, which pushed the introduction into the future at its party congress in 1968.

The "marriage of convenience" between the CDU / CSU and SPD only existed until the next election in 1969, in which the CDU / CSU failed to achieve the desired absolute majority . The SPD and FDP under Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt formed the first social-liberal coalition at the federal level ( Brandt I cabinet ).

Grand Coalition 2005–2009

In the early federal election on September 18, 2005 , neither of the two desired coalition alliances (neither a black-yellow coalition of CDU / CSU and FDP nor a red-green alliance of SPD and Alliance 90 / The Greens) achieved an absolute majority of the Bundestag mandates. This was due, among other things, to the entry of the party Linkspartei.PDS , which received 8.7% of the vote and with which none of the other parties was ready to form a coalition. After brief exploratory talks, the FDP categorically rejects a traffic light coalition with Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen and SPD as well as Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen to a Jamaica coalition with the CDU and FDP and furthermore from the SPD and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen to a coalition under tolerance by Die Linke.PDS, all signs were on black and red.

On November 11, 2005, the negotiating partners agreed on the final wording of the coalition agreement . The party congresses of the Union and the SPD approved the agreement with a large majority. On November 18, the chairmen of the three parties signed the coalition agreement; on November 22, 2005 Angela Merkel was elected Chancellor and the ministers of the first Merkel cabinet were appointed. This was the second time that the Federal Republic of Germany had a grand coalition at federal level.

In addition to Angela Merkel, decisive influence in the coalition negotiations was primarily attributed to the SPD chairman at the time, Franz Müntefering . After the defeat in the vote in the federal executive committee on the new general secretary of the party, Müntefering resigned the chairmanship of the SPD, which Matthias Platzeck took over, who also signed the coalition agreement for the SPD on November 18. Matthias Platzeck only led the SPD in the grand coalition for a short time, as he resigned from office on April 10, 2006 for health reasons. His successor was the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Kurt Beck .

The Second Grand Coalition, like the first, undertook special main tasks in order to use the opportunities offered by absolute majorities in the Bundestag and Bundesrat. The first was to achieve a balanced budget, i.e. a budget without any net borrowing, by 2011. A first measure was to raise the sales tax to 19%. Furthermore, the relationship between the Federation and the Länder was reorganized in the federalism reform. In addition, the Konrad shaft was decided to be the first repository for light and medium-level radioactive waste and thus for 90% of the nuclear waste generated in Germany.

Grand Coalition 2013–2017

Sigmar Gabriel (l.), Angela Merkel (m.) And Horst Seehofer (r.) At the signing of the coalition agreement (2013)

After the federal election in 2013 , the previous black-yellow coalition could not be continued because the FDP was no longer represented in the Bundestag. The CDU / CSU narrowly missed an absolute majority. The exploratory talks of the Union parties with the SPD and the Greens, as well as the SPD's rejection of a red-red-green coalition, led to coalition negotiations between the Union and the SPD alone. These were provisionally concluded on November 28 with a coalition agreement. The SPD was still waiting for the result of a membership decisionbefore joining the coalition. After the vote in favor of the grand coalition, the members of the government were announced by the CDU / CSU and SPD in the Berlin party headquarters on December 15, and the coalition agreement was signed a day later. The new government began its work with the election of the Chancellor and the subsequent swearing-in of ministers on December 17, 2013.

The Merkel III cabinet was dismissed by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on October 24, 2017 , but remained in office until the new government was appointed on March 14, 2018.

Grand coalition since 2018

Olaf Scholz (l.), Angela Merkel (m.) And Horst Seehofer (r.) At the signing of the coalition agreement (2018)

Almost six months after the 2017 federal election , another grand coalition under Angela Merkel began work on March 14, 2018.


The abbreviation GroKo for Grand Coalition was already used during the grand coalition under Kiesinger in the 1960s, but only prevailed during the coalition negotiations of the Merkel III cabinet . In 2013 it was voted the German word of the year .

Grand coalitions at the state level

Large coalitions were and are not uncommon at the level of the German Länder . Since the re-emergence of the states after the Nazi era ( West German states ) and 1990 ( East German states ), there has been a grand coalition of CDU or CSU and SPD at state level in 14 of the 16 states (except Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia). Currently (October 2020) there are large coalitions in three countries: in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (SPD / CDU) , in Lower Saxony (SPD / CDU) and in Saarland (CDU / SPD) .

  • 1947 Hans Ehard (CSU)
  • 1950–1954 Hans Ehard (CSU)
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
Lower Saxony


Federal government

In Austria, the grand coalition of the conservative ÖVP and the social democratic SPÖ is the longest ruling coalition form of the post-war period. Since 1945 there has only been no grand coalition at federal level between 1966 and 1987 and between 2000 and 2007. From January 11, 2007 to December 18, 2017 there was again a grand coalition in Austria, which was continued after the National Council elections in 2008 and 2013 .

There were large coalitions at the federal level between 1945 and 1966 under the conservative Chancellors Leopold Figl (until 1953), Julius Raab (1953–1961), Alfons Gorbach (1961–1964) and Josef Klaus (1964–1966). From 1987 there were SPÖ-ÖVP coalitions under the social democratic Chancellors Franz Vranitzky (1987-1997), Viktor Klima (1997-2000), Alfred Gusenbauer (2007-2008), Werner Faymann (2008-2016) and Christian Kern (May 2016 –December 2017). Except for the very short legislative period between autumn 1994and in 1995, all grand coalitions before 2008 each had the necessary two-thirds majority in parliament to pass constitutional laws .

Federal states

Governments of Austrian federal states were and are often grand coalitions (often due to the proportional representation system prescribed by the respective state constitution , which still applies to the formation of governments in some of the Austrian federal states). Examples:


Unlike most other democracies, Switzerland does not have a competitive but a concordance democracy . Their main features are:

  • The Swiss government does not consist of a coalition alliance of several parties, which is opposed to an opposition in parliament, but is composed proportionally of members of all larger parties who together represent a majority of the electorate (see also: magic formula ).
  • The government's policy is only supported on a case-by-case basis by the parliamentary groups of the governing parties, so that these larger parties are both in government and in opposition.


Between 2005 and 2009, a grand coalition existed in the Bulgarian Parliament between the Bulgarian Socialist Party , the National Movement Simeon the Second and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms .


A military dictatorship ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974 . After the reintroduction of democracy, the parties PASOK and Nea Dimokratia emerged as the two big parties. There was no grand coalition until 2011. In November 2011 - after almost two years of fighting the Greek financial crisis , which is also part of a euro crisis - the Prime Minister Giorgos Andrea Papandreou , who had ruled until then, offered to resign.

The Greek President had a massive impact on the two parties to form a grand coalition until new elections.

Kai Strittmatter ( Süddeutsche Zeitung ) commented:

“The leaders of the two big parties, Pasok and Nea Dimokratia, fought again on Sunday before the agreement - like two little boys over their toys, as if their country were not threatened with bankruptcy in a few days, as if they still had a trace of credibility left over to gamble away. You don't have it. "


After the parliamentary elections in Iceland in 2007 , after twelve years of liberal-conservative government, there was a grand coalition of the conservative Independence Party and the Social Democratic Alliance . However, this only lasted for two years.

After the parliamentary elections in Iceland in 2013 , there was another grand coalition with the coalition of the Independence Party and the Progress Party .



In Japan, in view of the country's repeated political paralysis in recent decades ( Nejire Kokkai ), the formation of a grand coalition (大連 立, dairenritsu ) of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) with the largest opposition party has been brought into play.

Historically, a grand coalition between the Liberal Party of Japan (LPJ) and the Socialist Party of Japan (SPJ) was negotiated during the occupation after the Pacific War . Was realized for the first time a "large" coalition but only from 1994 between the LDP and the SPJ in the Cabinet Murayama , the SPJ but already in 1993 had become just under the second strongest party, while their participation in government lost many members (in the House from 70 in 1993 to 30 in front of the 1996 elections ) and after the 1996 elections, when it again lost half of its lower house mandates, as a small Social Democratic partyleft the government coalition. In later years the LDP discussed a grand coalition several times, in particular with the New Progressive Party of Ichirō Ozawa (1996) and the Democratic Party under Ichirō Ozawa (2007) and after the Great East Japanese Earthquake in 2011 under Naoto Kan ; However, these talks did not reach the status of concrete coalition negotiations.


In Luxembourg there is no such thing as a grand coalition. The conservative Christian Social People's Party has always been the largest parliamentary group there in the last few decades. From 1979 to 2013 this party provided the prime minister and always had the second largest party as a coalition partner. Between 1999 and 2004 the liberal Democratic Party was the second strongest party, between 1979 and 1999 and between 2004 and 2013 it was the Lëtzebuerger Sozialistesch Aarbechterpartei . After the 2013 elections there was a Gambia coalition , whereby the CSV is now part of the opposition, although it is still the strongest party in the Chambre des Députés .


The term grand coalition does not exist in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, Christian Democrats and Social Democrats were usually the two strongest parties in parliament. However, the Christen-Democratisch Appèl (CDA) has only officially existed since 1980; before that, the predecessor party Katholieke Volkspartij (KVP) was usually the strongest force. The Social Democrats of the Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA) were only the third largest group in the 2002-2003 legislative period because of Lijst Pim Fortuyn . Since the elections in 2010 and 2012, the right-wing liberal VVD has held the position of the strongest force in the right-wing camp, while the Christian Democrats have sunk to the middle party.

For the 1950s and 1960s, when there were often more parties represented in the government than arithmetically necessary for the majority, one speaks of the brede cabinettes (cabinets on a broad basis). The cooperation between KVP and PvdA was called rooms-rood , Roman-red. There were Roman-red cabinets under Willem Drees 1948–1958 and again briefly in 1965/1966 under the Catholic Jo Cals . With the KVP and PvdA, the Cals cabinet had a large majority in parliament, but it also included the Protestant ARP . It ended dramatically after the CIP group pushed for more restraint in spending (so-called Night of Schmelzer ).

PvdA and KVP worked together from 1973 to 1977 under the PvdA Prime Minister Joop den Uyl . But they did not have a common majority; A Protestant, a radical democratic and a social liberal party (ARP, PPR and D66 ) were also represented in the government . In general, the PvdA had entered into a loose electoral alliance with the PPR and D66. The cabinet suffered from great tension, especially between Prime Minister Den Uyl and the CIP Justice Minister Dries van Agt .

The CDA was first created in 1977 as a joint electoral list of the KVP and two smaller Protestant parties (ARP and CHU). The merger officially came about in 1980. CDA and PvdA were jointly represented in the government in 1981/1982 (Dries van Agt, together with D66), 1989–1994 ( Ruud Lubbers ) and 2007–2010 ( Jan Peter Balkenende , together with the ChristenUnie ). All CDA Prime Ministers ruled with the Social Democrats for part of their term of office.

In the Dutch parliamentary elections on September 12, 2012 , the VVD, the party of the previous Prime Minister Mark Rutte, received the most votes and the PvdA the second most votes. PvdA chairman Diederik Samsom expressed readiness to “form a stable government”.


In the Ukraine, in view of the country's ongoing political paralysis, the formation of a grand coalition ( Ukrainian Ширка / Schirka , German literally Die Breite ) from the Julija Tymoshenko bloc and the Party of Regions has been brought into play. According to press reports, negotiations on such a coalition were about to be concluded in early June 2009. However, the coalition never came about due to deep differences between the blocs.

See also

The term was also used earlier for an alliance of states. Thomas Mann wrote the essay Friedrich and the Grand Coalition in 1915 .


  • Sebastian Bukow, Wenke Seemann (ed.): The Grand Coalition. A balance sheet. VS Verlag , Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-531-16199-0 .
  • Jürgen Dittberner : Grand coalition. 1966 and 2005 , in: APuZ 35–36 / 2007, pp. 11–18.
  • Christoph Egle, Reimut Zohlnhöfer (ed.): The Great Coalition 2005-2009 , VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-531-16796-1 .
  • Joachim Samuel Eichhorn: Through every cliff to success. The Government Practice of the First Grand Coalition (1966-1969). Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-58944-3 ( full text available online ) ( review )
  • Lothar Höbelt (Ed.): Republic in Transition. The grand coalition and the rise of the Haider-FPÖ , Universitas Verlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-8004-1422-8 .
  • Benedikt Pott: love marriage or forced marriage? Formations of government between CDU / CSU and SPD 1966 and 2005. A political science comparison. Müller, Saarbrücken 2009, ISBN 978-3-8364-5730-9 .
  • Manfried Rauchsteiner : The two. The Grand Coalition in Austria 1945-1966. Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Vienna 1987, ISBN 3-215-06433-2 .
  • Paulina Starski: The 'Grand Coalition' as a Problem of Constitutional Law - Right to Effective Opposition vs. Equality of deputies . In: The public administration (DÖV) 18, 750–761 (2016) ( [1] ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Grand Coalition  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: GroKo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Gerd Strohmeier (2009): Grand coalitions in Germany and Austria (PDF; 969 kB), in: Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft , 2009/1, p. 8
  2. ^ Hans-Peter Schwarz : Adenauer. The statesman: 1952-1967 , Stuttgart 1991, pp. 801-805; Kurt Klotzbach : The way to the state party. Program, practical politics and organization of the German social democracy 1945 to 1965 , Berlin / Bonn 1982, pp. 524/525.
  3. PHOENIX round of November 30, 2006: “Love marriage or forced marriage?” - The grand coalition then and now , from November 30, 2006.
  4. Wolfgang Renzsch : Landesfinanzausgleich , in: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns (accessed on March 21, 2016).
  5. ^ Membership decision : Social Democrats vote for grand coalition. In: Spiegel Online. December 14, 2013, accessed December 14, 2013 .
  6. Merkel announces GroKo 2013 - grand coalition of CDU, CSU and SPD. In: . December 16, 2013, accessed December 17, 2013 .
  7. One man, one word: The word GroKo has been around for 44 years - WELT. In: Retrieved February 1, 2018 .
  8. Renaissance of the Ensemble Cabaret - Believing in a Common Cause. In: Retrieved on February 1, 2018 (at minute 50%).
  9. Bankruptcy of the political class
  10. Elections in the Netherlands - Europe-friendly parties win majority , Spiegel Online from September 12, 2012.
  11. Янукович открыл карты: переговоры с БЮТ на финишной прямой, осталось решить детали ( Memento from June 11, 2009 on the Internet from June 11, 2009 )