Pedestrians walk outside the Reichstag building, which houses the Bundestag federal parliament, as German national flags fly in Berlin, Germany, on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave ground to her coalition partner and agreed to support Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as the next German president, laying the ground for a resumption of the two parties' alliance after next year's federal election. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
© Bloomberg

Wolfgang Münchau writes about “ Germany’s disappearing centre” (October 22) as a consequence of an increasing degree of multipartyism. But precisely because the number of parties is increasing, the appeal of the political centre becomes stronger.

When there were three parties in the Bundestag, the centrist Free Democrats made majority coalition governments, sometimes with the Christian Democrats and sometimes with the Social Democrats, thus always reinforcing the pivotal role of the centre. The entrance and growth of the Greens created a four-party system which became polarised around two two-party coalitions, either on the right by the CDU and the FDP or on the left by the SPD and the Greens.

But now, with the addition of two extremes, the far Left and the far-right Alternative for Germany, there are six parties in the German parliament. The traditional coalitions of two parties are unviable as none of them collects a majority of seats. This is what has made the centrist grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats the most viable formula in three of the last four legislatures.

Paradoxically, a greater fragmentation of the party system leads to the reappearance of the centre — more or less in the manner of the multi-party European Parliament, as Mr Münchau actually acknowledges. Multipartyism is thus good news, both for broader representation and for consensual governance. In Germany and in Europe.

Josep Colomer
Professor of Political Science,
Georgetown University,
Washington, DC, US

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