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News 09 May 17

Croatia Local Elections Could Boost Renegade Rightists

If a group of right-wing MPs get a positive result in Croatia’s local elections, they could withdraw their support for the government and push for early parliamentary polls, an analyst said.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Zlatko Hasanbegovic at a press conference on Monday. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Lana SLIVAR DOMINIC

Controversial former Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic, along with other two independent right-wing MPs – Bruna Esih and Zeljko Glasnovic – could withdraw their support for the government led by the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, an analyst told BIRN.

After the HDZ officially announced on Monday that Hasanbegovic is no longer a member of the party, it was immediately evident that the HDZ – which has recently ended its coalition with its junior government partner, Bridge of the Independent Lists, MOST – will need the three right-wingers’ votes if it wants to maintain a governing majority in parliament.

“I think that their decision on how they [Hasanbegovic, Esih and Glasnovic] will act towards the HDZ and  [Prime Minister and HDZ leader] Andrej Plenkovic largely depends on the results of the local elections,” Berto Salaj, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, told BIRN.

“If they have a very good result in the elections, then they will notice that they have political strength which they can use at new [early] parliamentary elections and then they won’t be prone to making any deals with Plenkovic, because they’ll feel that they can manage to win seats in parliament by themselves,” Salaj explained.

But he said that if the elections’ result is bad for the right-wingers, the group will look for some sort of compromise with the HDZ – either by supporting a minority government or by entering the government – and will not push for early parliamentary elections.

During the latest crisis within the coalition government – initiated by Plenkovic’s move to sack three MOST ministers in late April – the three right-wing MPs backed the HDZ.

Hasanbegovic and Esih voted against the removal of Finance Minister Zdravko Maric on Thursday, while Glasnovic left the plenary hall before the vote.

The day after, Hasanbegovic and Glasnovic voted for the HDZ’s Gordan Jandrokovic as the new parliamentary chair, while Esih was not present for the vote.

As it barely managed to gather 76 out of 151 MPs in total to name Jandrokovic chair, the HDZ will probably need the trio’s votes when it comes to naming new ministers in June to replace the ones it has sacked.

Hasanbegovic parted ways with the HDZ when he joined Esih’s list for Zagreb in the upcoming local elections on May 21.

He organised a press conference explaining his move on Monday, also accusing Plenkovic of jeopardising the government by cancelling the HDZ’s cooperation with MOST.

Esih, a former history researcher, initially entered parliament on HDZ’s list at September’s general elections but turned against the party and entered the campaign for Zagreb mayor, taking some of HDZ’s voters.

The HDZ nominated Drago Prgomet as its candidate for Zagreb mayor in March; at the time, Hasanbegovic said he regretted that Esih was not the party candidate.

The third member of an informal group of rightist MPs is Glasnovic, a retired 1990s general, who was once also associated with the HDZ.

As a candidate for Croatian citizens living abroad and Bosnian Croats, Glasnovic entered parliament in 2015, when he was on the HDZ’s list.

Amid Plenkovic’s more centrist path, Glasnovic distanced himself from the HDZ and ran alone in the early elections in September, managing to again enter parliament.

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