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I'm scratching my head as to what this passage means:

L'opposition des radicaux et des socialistes pousse à gouverner au centre, d'où des choix politiques orientés vers le protectionnisme économique, une certaine indifférence à la question sociale, une volonté de briser l'isolement international avec l'alliance russe.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Affaire_Dreyfus&oldid=215805116

DeepL gives "Opposition from the Radicals and Socialists led to government from the centre". Is that right? Pousser à seems to generally take a direct object (encourage ... to do ...).

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  • It means the opposition[...] draws into governing {from | with} the Center. You pull where we push, same mess in result. Commented Jun 16 at 14:28

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This is the meaning of “pousser à” that you're aware of. It's stronger than “encourage”, and more like “drive”, “push”.

Pousser à” usually has a direct object, which is the person(s) (or abstract entity) that is pushed towards doing something. But the direct object isn't grammatically necessary, so it can be omitted if the meaning doesn't require it. In the context of this sentence, “pousser à gouverner …” affects the people who are governing, i.e. the government as a whole. Rather than “… pousse le gouvernement à gouverner …”, we just say and write “… pousse à gouverner …”.

DeepL's translation of the verb as “led” is not strictly correct: it is in general possible that someone is pushed towards doing something, but doesn't actually do it. However, “led” is true here: the government was pushed towards the center, and did apply centrist policies.

In the French original, “l'opposition des radicaux et des socialistes” is ambiguous: it could either mean “opposition between the radicals and the socialists” or “opposition from the radicals and socialists”. DeepL's translation is correct: here the radicals and socialists were both in opposition, and the republican moderate right was in power, but the republican moderate right did not have an absolute majority so they needed the help of either radicals (left) or monarchists (far right).

That government was driven towards “gouverner au centre”, i.e. towards more centrist policies than what the party in power (moderate right) would have liked due to the strength of the left-wing opposition.

Side note on political terminology: in France, “radical” does not mean extremist, but rather a political tradition that is staunchly republican: radicals were radical in rejecting monarchy as a system of government, but otherwise covered a wide range of policies. By the 1890s, the left was largely in socialists movements with a Marxist bent, leaving radicals as a more centrist party, closer to the UK's Liberal party.

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That actually means led to govern "on the center", i.e. led the government to have centrist (moderate) policies, neither leftist nor rightist.

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