The centrists cannot hold

There are many reasons to be pessimistic about the prospects for Italy’s Mario Monti and other centrist politicians in Europe.

In most advanced democracies, a large centre-right party competes with a large centre-left party. Of course, the extent to which an electoral system favours large parties – by having high popular-vote thresholds to enter parliament, or through winner-take-all constituencies – affects the degree of political fragmentation. But, by and large, the developed democracies are characterised by competition between large parties on the centre left and centre right. What, then, are true centrists like Mario Monti, Italy’s respected technocratic prime minister, to do?

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