Thursday

22nd Feb 2024

Croatia vote ends in stalemate

  • Sunday was Croatia's first election since EU entry in 2013 (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The two major competing political camps in Croatia were neck and neck according official results in the country’ first parliamentary election on Sunday (8 November) since joining the European Union in 2013.

According to official results after almost all the votes were counted, the conservative Croatian Democratic Union Party (HDZ), led by former intelligence chief Tomislav Karamarko were projected to receive 59 mandates, with votes from the diaspora, in the 151-seat parliament.

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But while the left-wing coalition, led by incumbent Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) got 56 mandates, an Istrian regional party with 3 mandates pledged they would join the SDP in a coalition.

Croatia's conservative opposition looked set to secure a narrow win earlier, according to preliminary results, but with 99,5 percent of the votes counted, and the Istrian party's pledge, their luck seem to have changed.

HDZ, the party that also gives the president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, were already in celebratory mood on Sunday night.

"We won the parliamentary elections... The victory brought us responsibility to lead our country, which is in a difficult situation. Whoever wants to fight with us for the quality of life in Croatia is welcome," Karamarko told cheering supporters according to AFP.

With no outright majority for either bloc, tough negotiations to form a new government could last for weeks.

A strong show by newcomer Most (Bridge of Independent Lists) Party, founded in 2012, could see them become a kingmaker as they're projected to receive 19 mandates.

Party leader Bozo Petrov, said Most would support a future government only if it went ahead with reforms of the judiciary and public administration.

On one of the main election topics - the refugee crisis - an HDZ-led coalition could result in tougher measures to stop migrants from entering the country.

Sunday's election was the first one held in any of the countries on the main migratory route, after hundreds of thousands of people arrived in the EU via Greece and the Western Balkans.

Over 320,000 people came to Croatia, a country of 4.4 million, since mid-September, en route to Germany. Numbers swelled after Hungary sealed its border with razor wire.

The crisis seems to have helped diplomat-turned-politician Milanovic.

He's seen as having treated refugees with compassion, but also as having stood up for Croatia, by criticising Hungary and Serbia for waving people through.

Croatian society showed sympathy, in part, because many Croatians were also refugees in the 1990s Balkan wars.

The HDZ talked about tougher border controls, but won few votes on the issue.

HDZ, which steered Croatia to independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia in 1991, ran a campaign full of patriotic rhetoric, evoking the memory of Croatia's nationalist founding father, Franjo Tudjman.

It also promised quicker economic growth.

It's the economy

The economy dominated the elections, with Milanovic losing votes for failing to reform the public sector or to get people back to work.

Croatia’s economy, one of the most fragile in Europe, grew slightly this year after six years of recession. Its debt is 90 percent of GDP.

Unemployment is over 16 percent - the third highest rate in the EU, after Greece and Spain. Youth unemployment is 43.1 percent, also third highest.

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