Coalition (politics)

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A coalition (from the Latin coalitio , ' growing together', 'unification', 'union') in politics is a temporary alliance of political parties , political groups and parliamentary groups .

In many states parties form coalitions to form a stable government . This is necessary when - as is often the case in political systems with proportional representation  - one party or parliamentary group alone does not have the absolute majority of MPs in parliament that is necessary for this . Coalitions, however, do not necessarily have to have parliamentary majorities; minority governments based on coalitions are also common in some political systems . These governments have to try to achieve majorities beyond the coalition parties in every single vote and are therefore considered to be more unstable.

The opposite term to coalition government is one-party government (sole government).

Formation of coalitions

Before the election, parties can make coalition statements to signal which other party (s) they can envisage a joint government with after the election. Coalition statements can also be negative. That is, parties exclude coalitions with certain parties. Such coalition statements are not legally binding.


Coalition negotiations can be initiated in different ways. In some systems, for example in Austria , the head of state officially instructs a formator to explore possible government alliances. The formateur is not necessarily determined from the party with the most mandates, especially not if it becomes apparent that other parties are more likely to organize majorities. In practice, the formateur in the party leader or the top candidate of the party with the most mandates is usually commissioned to form a government first, typically by the head of state or parliament .


In other political systems, such as Germany , there are no such formal mandates, and the parties freely negotiate possible alliances among themselves. As a first step, so-called exploratory talks can take place, in which rough content-related aspects for a possible joint coalition are first explored. If these talks are successful and the parties are generally ready to work together, formal coalition negotiations follow.

This form of government formation was introduced by Federal President Klestil on the occasion of the formation of the government in 1999/2000 as a new practice in Austrian domestic politics and has been common there since then.

Government negotiation (coalition negotiation)

The government negotiation is then the actual process of forming a government. Here, negotiating teams negotiate both the content of the government program and the government team (the cabinet), i.e. the individual posts of the new government and their occupation. Nowadays, these talks often lead to a coalition agreement in writing , which should then be politically (but not legally) binding for the time of the government. The level of detail of the policy measures specified there varies widely.

Failure of government negotiations

If the government negotiations fail at the first attempt, the process begins again, that is, the parties sound out other coalition options. In systems with a formateur, when the latter has exhausted all of his options, the next strongest party is also commissioned to form a government.

Only when all possibilities for forming a government have been exhausted will new elections be necessary.

Under constitutional law, the head of state can also commission someone completely different to form a government. This happens, for example, after the failure of a government through a motion of no confidence , so that the head of government cannot remain in office if there is no other democratic legitimation for a successor until the next election. Then, for example, a non-party government ( government officials, experts) is formed as a transitional government. But it must enjoy the consent of parliament, so find its coalitions for the legislative majorities in the "free play" of parliamentary forces.

Form of the coalition

Coalition agreement

By entering into a coalition agreement between two or more parties, founded with the intention of a coalition government to be formed, which is medium to long-term cooperation in a coalition government during the next legislative period regulated. The coalition agreement usually gives an overview of the proposed legislation of the coalition-backed government . In addition, coalition agreements can include the design and division of the ministries among the government partners. Some coalition agreements also contained regulations on how coalition parties resolve conflicts, for example by appointing a coalition committee. There is no legal basis for a coalition agreement, so the parties are completely free to formulate it. The coalition agreement can, but does not have to be, published after it has been concluded.

Party of the head of government

It is common, but not mandatory, for the party that won the most votes among the coalition parties to be the head of government . Especially in the case of a grand coalition , when the parties are equally strong, this principle is controversial. The Israeli coalition model resolves this conflict by changing the head of government in the middle of the electoral term.

Coalition types

The coalition theory distinguishes between different types Coalition, for example, the minimum winning coalition (minimum winning coalition) , or coalition of the scarcest majority (smallest size coalition) , the large coalition or the minimum connected winning coalition (minimal connected winning coalition) . Some theories of coalition formation are - regardless of political content - purely office-oriented ("politically blind") such as B. the concept of the minimum profit coalition. Other theories also take into account distance political ideologies, such as the concept of the minimum connected profit coalition.


Various constellations that have already occurred in Germany at federal or state level are the black-red coalition , red-green coalition , red-red-green coalition , black-yellow coalition , social-liberal coalition (red-yellow), and traffic light coalition (red-yellow-green ), red-red coalition or black-green coalition . After the federal election in 2005 , the term Jamaica coalition was introduced into the discussion. Coalitions between the CDU and the LINKE have so far only existed at the municipal level, but were not ruled out for the future by the former Prime Minister of Saxony-Anhalt , Wolfgang Böhmer . There is still no name for such alliances, as the name Black-Red is already used for coalitions of the Union and the SPD . In the context of the state elections in 2016, new word creations were created due to new government formations with two or three coalition partners. The government in Baden-Württemberg, for example, is talking about a “Kiwi coalition” (green-black coalition). In Saxony-Anhalt, the terms “Germany coalition” (black-red-yellow coalition) and “Kenya coalition” (black-red-green coalition) have been used.

The names of various coalitions in Germany are:

The political parties are often assigned colors , the coalitions are named after them. Black stands for Christian Democrats or Conservatives, red for Social Democrats, Socialists or Communists, yellow mostly for liberals and green for green alternatives. Other colors are country-specific (e.g. blue and orange).


In the past, there were only real coalitions in Austria at the federal level . They are by far the more common form: there were sole governments in the republic - with the exception of the time of Austrofascism ( VF under Dollfuß / Schuschnigg) - only short-lived around 1930 ( CS / Schwarze under Streeruwitz , Vaugoin ) and in the late 1960s and early 1970s ( ÖVP / Blacks under Klaus and SPÖ / Reds under Kreisky ). Even among the coalitions, only these two parties have so far formed governments, and for a long time only formed a coalition with one another ( grand coalition according to the Austrian understanding), with the exception of the short NSDAP participation under Seyß-Inquart shortly before the Anschluss and the short KPÖ participation in the provisional state government Renner 1945 . The first "small coalition" after 1945 was in 1983 when the SPÖ under Fred Sinowatz formed a coalition with the FPÖ under Norbert Steger, which was later taken over and terminated by Vranitzky. In 2000 (ÖVP under Wolfgang Schüssel with FPÖ / Blaue and BZÖ / Orange) and again in 2017 (ÖVP under Kurz with FPÖ), as well as in 2019 (ÖVP with the Greens ), a smaller party was involved in the government.

The appointments of the federal ministers negotiated in the coalitions are of great importance because they are largely free of instructions in their conduct of office , the Federal Chancellor as head of government is only a primus inter pares in the Council of Ministers as the highest decision-making body of the administrative, which only provides general guidelines.

The proportional representation system in the Austrian federal states , according to which the party composition of the state government corresponds to the mandate relationship in the state parliament , was abolished in Vorarlberg as early as 1923 and since the end of the 1990s in several other states. In 2015, for example, real coalition governments were established for the first time in Burgenland (red-blue) and Styria (black-red). Otherwise there are coalition-like agreements in the sense of pure declarations of will to pursue a common line beyond proportional representation. One example of this was the black-green “coalition” from 2003 onwards in the proportional system in Upper Austria.

The state councils (the members of the state governments) can be entrusted with the execution of individual tasks of the state administration (except in Vienna ), but do not have to, so that in practice the members of the proportional representation parties usually have no special political options. The proportional representation was supposed to promote the cooperation of all elected parties, but from the 1980s made it more difficult in the federal states without a clear majority of one party to draw up government programs and to work efficiently.

At the community level , proportional representation generally applies. Here the position of the mayor's party in the municipal council is even stronger, because there are usually only a few executive councils, especially in rural communities.


Switzerland has no coalitions. Any agreements and collaborations are made from topic to topic, from election to election or vote to vote. Common alliances are the Coalition of Reason or Armenia (SP, FDP, CVP - according to the party colors and the flag of Armenia ) and the bourgeois coalition (SVP, FDP, CVP). If the two strongest parties SP (left) and SVP (right) together outvote the center parties, this is called an unholy alliance . In the 50th legislative period of the National Council , the right-wing camp (SVP, FDP) and the center-left camp (CVP, SP, Greens) increasingly faced each other.

Successful alliances in the 50th legislative period of the National Council
Parties frequency
          Civil coalition ( SVP , FDP , CVP ) 32.7%
             Coalition against the SVP ( SP , FDP, CVP, Greens ) 26.4%
       Right-wing coalition (SVP, FDP) 9.5%
          Center-left coalition (SP, CVP, Greens) 6.3%
       Conservative Coalition (SVP, CVP) 2.6%
          Social-liberal coalition (SP, FDP, Greens) 2.0%
          Unholy Alliance (SVP, SP, Greens) 1.0%
Status: end of December 2018


The formation of political alliances in the form of electoral associations or political parties was often viewed negatively by theorists of democracy . It was feared that organized interest groups would seize the government and the state and that particular interests would be pursued instead of the common good. (For example, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and James Madison .)


  • Sabine Kropp, Suzanne S. Schüttemeyer, Roland Sturm (eds.): Coalitions in Western and Eastern Europe , Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2002, ISBN 3-8100-3176-3 .
  • Manfried Welan: Formation of the Government, in particular 1999/2000. Discussion paper No. 80-R-2000, Institute for Economics, Politics and Law - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, February 2000 ( pdf ,

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Lit. Welan: Government formation. 2000, 6th conventions before and during the formation of a government , p. 16 ( pdf ,
  2. "Saxony-Anhalt: Bohemians flirt with the left" , Der Tagesspiegel of July 21, 2008
  3. a b Francis Falling, Armin Mühlböck, Elisabeth Wolfgruber: The Austrian community. In: Forum Political Education (ed.): Regionalism, Federalism, Supranationalism. Vienna / Innsbruck 2001, p. 54 and Infobox Proporz , p. 55 ( full article, p. 45–61, PDF ,; there p. 10 f).
  4. The “Coalition of Reason” rules , Tages Anzeiger , August 27, 2015
  5. FDP and SVP are increasingly prevailing , Basler Zeitung , December 29, 2018
  6. ^ Successful coalition ,