BERLIN — The world’s focus may gradually be shifting away from the United States and toward other key powers such as China, but Germans are currently captivated by a far different, more unlikely candidate for world hegemony: Jamaica.
The island nation’s yellow-green-black flag is appearing on front pages here on a regular basis now, while activists everywhere around Berlin are carrying balloons with the same colors. German reporters have even embarked on the long journey to the Caribbean to figure out how Jamaicans feel about German politics. (Not too strongly, according to stunned German correspondents there.)
In fact, this sudden German fascination with the land of the Rastafarians has more to do with editors searching for interesting front pages and article art in the midst of stultifying governing coalition talks than a Teutonic tilt toward the Caribbean.
More than one month after general elections, Germany is still stuck in the middle of negotiations among the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) with its Bavarian sister party CSU, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens party. The colors that represent the four parties are green, black, yellow (and blue, but nobody appears willing to point out what would certainly ruin the fun).
The tortuous process of hammering out a coalition can last anywhere from days to months, even though German Chancellor Angela Merkel has only one option for a possible government given that the Social Democrats have ruled out cooperating with her party again.
Since the talks are key to the future of the country, they have dominated the news here for weeks. The problem is they tend to be visually rather dull. So journalists, cartoonists and politicians themselves have decided to take the Jamaica references literally and compete for the most creative interpretation. The right-leaning Cicero magazine, for instance, imagined buses with the negotiating partners headed toward the island nation.
Germany’s weekly Stern magazine saw dark clouds above a Jamaican Reichstag, the parliament building in Berlin.
Meanwhile, the country’s leading newspapers have gone a bit more outlandish, so far portraying Merkel as a Jack Sparrow-esque pirate...
as an elephant...
and a spliff-smoking Jamaican.
Merkel is not alone in receiving a Rasta makeover. Her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, also ended up with dreadlocks in the best-selling Bild tabloid paper:
Don’t be fooled by the smiling faces on these Rastafarians, however. Close observers of the coalition talks say they are going far from smoothly. The four parties are unlikely partners because of their vast policy differences, a split that has prompted demands for new elections among some participants.
Despite the challenges facing the talks, a number of nongovernmental organizations and associations, not to mention plenty of people on social media, have given their approval to the “Jamaica” option. “Jamaica offers significant chances despite all difficulties,” Mario Ohoven, president of Germany’s Mittelstand economic association, was quoted as saying by his social media team. Naturally, this approval of the talks was accompanied by a Jamaican flag.
On the other hand, it’s a little unclear what message the Federation of Trade Unions wants to send with this tweet:
If the coalition talks for Jamaica fall apart, Germans could face new elections, opening up a whole new world of metaphors, including the possibility of the “Traffic Light” coalition featuring the Social Democrats, Greens and Liberal Democrats (red-green-yellow). Or it could be the current group again but recognizing the “blue” of the Christian Social Union (CSU), which could then be called the “Tanzania” coalition.
It is also possible that it will just be a rerun of the previous government with Merkel’s CDU and the CSU forming a grand coalition with the Social Democrats again — a black-red combination that sadly never received a nickname.