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The first-ever election campaign for the European Parliament is under way in Croatia before the country joins the EU in July, but voter apathy could mar the landmark vote.
The campaign got under way on Thursday, three weeks before the polls scheduled for April 14, but concerns have been raised that the historic vote could be tainted by a low turnout.
Top politicians called on voters to cast their ballots, saying that the polls have major symbolical significance for Croatia.
"The first European parliament elections are of exceptional importance for Croatia as regards the affirmation of Europeanism in Croatia and as regards Croatia's reputation in Europe," said Croatian President Ivo Jospiovic.
But analysts have expressed concerns that a low turnout could overshadow the election, with predictions suggesting that even a 30 per cent turnout could be counted as a success.
Croatia will have 12 MEPs until regular European parliament elections in May next year, and 11 after that because the number of lawmakers in the legislature will be adjusted according to Lisbon Treaty regulations.
There are 28 competing lists of candidates at the polls, 27 of which are party lists, the other one independent.
The electoral rules allow preferential voting, which means that a voter can select the whole list or a specific person on one list.
Some analysts have suggested that the ruling coalition’s list, which consists of the Social Democratic Party and the Croatian People’s Party, could win the most seats.
But others have cautiously warned that there could be surprises, with a possible strong showing from the Labour Party, whose popularity is steadily growing.
Croatia is expected to join the European Union on July 1 this year.
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