The Center of the Center-Left Coalition

in Italian Politics

In the year 2000, Center leaning political parties and groups played

a major role in the crowded scene of Italian politics. This is especially

true in the case of parties which occupied the center space

of the Center-Left, the focus of this analysis. Their political visibility

notwithstanding, they persistently displayed confused tactics

and contradictory goals. Leading protagonists and supporting

actors disagreed over key questions including the very definition of

“Center” and the political subjects it encompasses, and, with that,

the meaning of the bloc’s left flank. In fact, the groups of the Center-

Left even debated the hyphen linking the two components of

its name. In turn, a political force – the Democrats – was even created

with the strategic goal of bypassing the Left/Right cleavage.

The Democrats sought to unify the various forces that had joined

the Ulivo’s (Olive Tree) electoral cartel into a “democratic party,”

that was inspired by the American Democrats, down to the choice

of a donkey as its symbol – hence their nickname “Asinello.”

Another element that makes it difficult to assign clear boundaries

to the political center was that these groups of the center and Center-

Left repeatedly took the “reformist” label. As a result, it is quite

difficult to trace the boundaries of the semantic universes to which

they refer and, in the end, it is often impossible to assess the true

nature of the issues dividing political forces and of the stakes

involved in particular choices or outcomes. The Center of the Center-

Left is not easily analyzed.

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