Recent developments, especially the outcome of the 2008 election, appear to point to the definitive sidelining of centrism in Italian politics. In reality, it remains significant – not least because of the opportunities for influence all bipolar systems give to parties not of the left or right, and because of the possible consequences of reassessments of centrism's historical significance. The term itself has been used to denote a kind of political outlook or ideology and, consequently, a kind of political strategy. A number of party and elite-level strategies called centrist are identified; one of these – transformism – has roots that stretch back at least to the nineteenth century and is not specifically Italian. Transformism has been variously interpreted. Against this background, the articles in this special issue together evaluate the historical importance of centrism and its current significance for Italian politics. As a governing strategy, centrism is practiced differently now than in the past, but it continues to be practiced.
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