Croatia's conservative opposition was set to win the country's first election since it joined the European Union in 2013, preliminary results showed on Monday, but tough negotiations were expected after it fell short of an outright majority.
“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,” opposition leader Tomislav Karamarko of the HDZ party told cheering supporters.
The new government will be under pressure to push through much-needed reforms in Croatia as it slowly emerges from six years of recession, and oversee the transit of tens of thousands of migrants through the country of 4.2 million people.
Results showed the HDZ-led Patriotic Coalition taking 59 seats in the 151-seat parliament, with the centre-left bloc, in power for the past four years, falling behind with 55 seats, based on votes from nearly 70 percent of Croatia’s 6,500 polling stations.
“I believe that we will have a new prime minister designate soon,” said President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who also hails from the HDZ.
New political party Most (“Bridge” in Croatian), was set to become a powerful force in national politics, coming third with 19 seats, although leader Bozo Petrov repeated a pre-electoral pledge that his party would not enter a coalition.
Sunday marks the country’s first parliamentary election since joining the European Union in 2013, and it remains one of the bloc’s poorest-performing economies.
The government led by Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic of the Social Democrats, elected in 2011, disappointed voters by failing to reform the public sector and boost the business climate, although Croatia saw a slight return to economic growth this year.
Defiant Milanovic called on Most to form a coalition with his centre-left bloc, telling his supporters: “We cannot go alone and we need partners.”
Ahead of the vote, the premier appeared to have been buoyed by his handling of the migrant crisis, which has seen nearly 350,000 people passing through Croatia on their way to northern Europe since mid-September.
But the economy remained the biggest issue on people’s minds and both main political camps lacked solid campaign pledges to reform, analysts said.
The HDZ was ousted four years ago amid a series of unprecedented scandals involving its former leader and ex-prime minister Ivo Sanader.
Although the party accused the government of lacking control over the migrant influx, the HDZ focused its campaign on patriotic rhetoric glorifying its founder Franjo Tudjman.
The autocratic Tudjman led Croatia throughout its 1990s independence war until his death in 1999.
His party had dominated Croatian politics since the one-time Yugoslav republic proclaimed independence in 1991, a move that sparked a four-year war with rebel Serbs.
The ruling coalition meanwhile, campaigning with the slogan “Croatia is Growing”, has consistently accused the opposition of corruption.
The success of Most and other smaller parties showed that “citizens apparently want a corrective force”, political science professor Tihomir Cipek told commercial broadcaster Nova TV Sunday.
Croatia’s public debt stands at nearly 90 percent of gross domestic product and unemployment was at 16.2 percent in September -- 43.1 percent among youths.
Date created : 2015-11-09