22nd Oct 2016

Abysmal turnout in Croatia's EU vote

  • Zagreb: low-level campaigning and poor media coverage contributed to the result (Photo: Mario Fajt)

Two and a half months before Croatia joins the EU, just 21 percent of voters bothered to cast ballots in Sunday's (14 April) election of 12 new MEPs.

The turnout is less than half compared to the country's referendum on EU accession in January last year, which saw 43.5 percent of people vote.

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It is also one of the lowest ever in EU polls, a record held by Slovakia in 2004, when just 17 percent of people voted.

Croatia's opposition centre-right HDZ party won six seats, narrowly beating the ruling centre-left SDP faction with five deputies. The nationalist and left-wing Labour party got one MEP.

The winners will act as observers with no voting rights in the EU assembly until Croatia joins the Union on 1 July.

They will then serve for one year, before Croatia chooses a new set of euro-deputies in the general EU elections next May.

The six HDZ winners are: Zdravka Busic, Andrej Plenkovic, Ivana Maletic, Davor Ivo Stier, Dubravka Suica and Ruza Tomasic.

Busic is a former MP who grew up in the US before returning to the country after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1990.

Plenkovic is an MP and a former diplomat who served as Croatia's deputy EU ambassador between 2002 and 2005.

Maletic is a senior official in the finance ministry and the author of books on economics.

Stier is an Argentina-educated MP who is deputy chair of the Croatian parliament's foreign affairs committee.

Suica is an MP and a former mayor of Dubrovnik, while Tomasic is an MP and a former police woman in Canada, who also returned to Croatia in 1990 and made her name as an anti-drugs activist, receiving death threats for her work.

On the SDP side, the winners are: Biljana Borzan, Sandra Petrovic Jakovina, Marino Maldini, Tonino Picula and Oleg Valjalo.

Borzan is a local politician and former doctor.

Jakovina is an MP on the legislative affairs and defence committees.

Maldini is an art historian and museum curator.

Picula is a former foreign minister and Valjalo, a onetime hotel manager, is deputy minister for tourism.

The Labour MEP, Vuljanic, is a former English language school teacher and the author of school textbooks and dictionaries.

Croatian commentators linked the low turnout to barely visible campaigning and media coverage in the run up to the event, as well as crisis-linked loss of enthusiasm for EU membership.

Commenting on the low numbers, the SDP's Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said in the Jutarnji List daily that "We ... will have to reflect why people are deaf to these choices."

The party's Borzan noted on TV: "People are still not aware of how important the EU parliament is and how it will affect their lives."

The SDP is also to field Croatia's new EU commissioner, deputy prime minister Neven Mimica, an economist who helped negotiate the country's EU association agreement some 10 years ago.

Jutarnji List in February reported that SDP has asked Mimica and its MEPs to donate the difference between their EU salaries and their domestic salaries to charity.

If they go ahead, it will see Mimica surrender about €13,000 a month, while the deputies will give up €5,000 a month.

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