Attacking the Centre: “Moderate‐Induced Polarization” in Denmark and The Netherlands

Reuven Y. Hazan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In a recent study it has been argued that strong centre parties may lead to polarization, not moderation. The study showed that as the centre's share of parliamentary seats increased, this convergence of voters was off‐set by two concurrent divergent party trends. As the centre parties expanded, either: (i) the extremist parties increased as well, or (ii) an outward movement of moderate parties took place. This article sets out to test these two trends in order to assess which is the more valid according to two case studies, because each pattern has a different impact on electoral competition, governmental durability and democratic stability. The two trends are appraised in Denmark and The Netherlands for all post‐war elections until 1990. The results show that the centre is indeed related to systemic polarization, but that one of the two patterns is invalid. The trend that perceives the centre as a possible destructive force is not supported, while the tendency that does not jeopardize democracy is supported. In both countries the centre's potential coalition partners ‐ the parties on the moderate left and right ‐ attacked their centre‐based party system by pulling away in an outward polarizing pattern. The goal was the creation of a bipolar system, with a vacant centre. In each case the centre parties were of a different size and adopted different tactics in order to combat the “moderate‐induced” strategy of polarization. The centre's counter‐strategies succeeded, but the party systems were transformed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)73-95
Number of pages23
JournalScandinavian Political Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1995


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