In a shock result that polls did not predict, the governing conservative Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, has taken a convincing lead in the parliamentary elections held on Sunday, according to the preliminary results.
By Anja Vladisavljevic
The first results in Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Croatia published by the State Election Commission suggest the governing centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, has come first and won 68 of the 151 seats in parliament, eight short of an absolute majority.
The Restart coalition led by the centre-left Social Democratic Party, SDP, appeared to have done far less well than was expected, with only 43 seats. Earlier surveys had suggested that neither main party would win an outright majority.
“I am very happy and satisfied because we are achieving one of the greatest victories in the history of HDZ,” Gordan Jandrokovic from the conservative Croatian Democratic Union, and spokesperson of the Croatian parliament, told the media, commenting on tonight’s election results.
SDP leader, Davor Bernardic, addressed Croatian citizens, telling them: “No matter whom you voted for, you made your voice heard.”
“I’m not running away from responsibility and I’m ready to leave, we’ll talk about it tomorrow [at the party’s meeting],” Bernardic said, while also congratulating tonight’s winners.
The nationalist Domovinski Pokret [Homeland Movement], a bloc gathered around the folk singer and former HDZ lawmaker Miroslav Skoro, came third, winning 15 seats.
Six seats are set to go to the Green-Left coalition, a gathering of small Left-wing parties, and eight to the conservative Bridge of Independent Lists party, Most.
Two seats are set to go to “liberal centre”. Two other liberal parties, the Croatian People’s Party, HNS, and the Reformists are likely to enter parliament with one MP each. BM 365, led by longtime Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic, did not win enough votes to enter parliament.
Some 3.8 million people were registered to vote. The turnout in the election was 46.25 per cent, according to the State Electoral Commission.
Besides 140 seats in ten constituencies, eight seats are guaranteed to national minorities and three to Bosnian Croats and the diaspora, making 151 in total. A governing coalition needs 76 seats.
An important role in forming the government will be played by the national minorities. The last government was led by the HDZ in coalition with the centrist HNS, and supported by minority MPs as well as some smaller parties.
The cabinet was originally constituted in October 2016 by a coalition agreement between the HDZ and Most, but it fell apart owing to disagreements over the handling of the huge but indebted private company Agrokor.
This year’s elections were held in special circumstances, in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic, so voters had to adhere to special health measures.
The election was originally planned for the autumn, but parliament was then dissolved in May to pave way for summer elections – raising suspicions that the ruling HDZ was pushing for early elections in order to capitalize on its apparently competent management of the pandemic.
In mid-March, Croatia introduced a strict lockdown that managed to curb an increase in the number of infections. However, since anti-epidemic measures were eased, the number of new infections is growing again. So far, the number of active COVID-19 cases stands at 842.
What is certain is that the future government will face a number of challenges, such as the continuing fight against coronavirus, rising unemployment and a severe economic crisis that will follow the pandemic in a country that depends heavily on tourism.