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News 05 May 17

Croatian Minister's Survival Leaves Crisis Unresolved

Croatia's Finance Minister may have survived an opposition-led no-confidence vote  - but it remains unclear whether the main governing party, HDZ, still has a majority in the chamber.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Andrej Plenkovic on the press conference on Thursday. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic

Ahead of talks between President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and leaders of Croatia's parliamentary parties and MPs on Friday, a resolution to the political crisis in the country is not in sight.

Grabar Kitarovic called the meeting in order to get insight into “the balance of power in the parliament” between the government and the opposition, amid a crisis in relations between the senior party in government, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, and the Bridge of Independent Lists, MOST.

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric survived an opposition-led no-confidence vote demanding his resignation, after which MOST leader Bozo Petrov resigned as chair of parliament on Thursday.

However, it remains unclear whether HDZ has weathered the storm and still commands a majority in the chamber to continue governing without MOST.

The latest turmoil began when Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic last week axed three MOST ministers for not supporting Maric.

The HDZ then entered into open conflict with MOST, which left the government and supported the opposition move to remove the minister.

Plenkovic’s government was voted into office last October by 91 MPs. Without the support of MOST’s 15 MPs and five MPs from centrist Croatian Peasants’ Party, HSS – which has also stated it will no longer support the government – that majority appears non-existent.

On Thursday, after the unsuccessful no-confidence motion, Plenkovic refused to clarify whether the HDZ had a majority in parliament or not, claiming that “wasn’t the topic of discussion in the parliament”.

“The only moment when it will be seen who supports my government will come when the new ministers [instead of the MOST ministers] are introduced,” he said, adding that his party was ready for early elections if need be.

However, his veteran party colleague, Vladimir Seks, said parliament should go on an announced break during the local elections, set for May 21, along with the second round on June 4, afer which the extistence of a majority would then be known.

The HDZ hopes it can instal one of its own MPs as chair of parliament. Currently it has only two deputies.

On the other hand, the opposition has demanded the dissolution of parliament and early elections on June 4. The opposition also claims that only a party with a majority in parliament can have the chair.

“This great agony needs to be solved, and this can only be done if the people who have caused it just go,” Davor Bernardic, the Social Democratic Party president said on Thursday, seeking early elections, as does MOST and the bulk of the opposition parties.

The opposition, led by the SDP, on April 20 filed the motion against Maric because he had not excluded himself from voting on the troubled private company Agrokor, where he had worked before becoming a minister.

The opposition also accused Maric of taking a privileged loan from the state-owned Croatian Postal Bank as a member of its supervisory board during his term as state secretary in the Finance Ministry between 2008 and 2012.

The HDZ and MOST experienced a similar conflict in the previous coalition government in which the HDZ voted against Prime Minister Oreskovic, causing his government to fall in June last year.

In early elections held in September last year, the HDZ again won the most seats and again formed a coalition government with MOST.

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