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News 27 Apr 17

Croatia PM Shakes Coalition With Triple Sacking

After Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic axes three ministers from the junior ruling party for disloyalty to a colleague, the future of his coalition government is looking cloudy.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Three MOST's ministers leave the building of the government on Thursday. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Damir Sencar

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic shook the foundations of his centre-right coalition government on Thursday when he demanded the resignations of three ministers from the junior government party, the Bridge of Independent Lists, MOST.

The government voted into office by parliament in October is made up of Plenkovic’s Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, MOST and MPs from national minorities.

Although it had a comfortable support of 91 out of 151 seats in parliament - 61 HDZ MPs, 14 MOST MPs and eight MPs from national minorities, along with a few others – without MOST, it could lose its majority.

Plenkovic demanded the resignations of Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic, Justice Minister Ante Sprlje and Environment Protection and Energy Minister Slaven Dobrovic because they refused to vote in support of Finance Minister Zdravko Maric ahead of a non-confidence vote initiated on April 20 by the opposition Social Democratic Party, SDP.

The opposition said Maric should quit because he had not declared a potential conflict of interest.

This was because he had not excluded himself from a voting on the troubled private company Agrokor – where he had worked before becoming a minister in the former government.

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.

Plenkovic called a press conference where he explained that he had asked for the ministers’ removal because they would not support their colleague.

“Ministers who are unable to support their colleagues can’t be members of my government. This is the only responsible move that others would also do in my place,” he said.

As Prime Minister, he said he expected a collective stance by ministers because it was a matter of “a relationship of trust”.

“Unfortunately, today this wasn’t the case and at that moment the border where trust turns to mistrust was crossed - and there are no dilemmas for me as Prime Minister,” he said.

Before his speech, Bozo Petrov, chair of parliament and head of MOST, said Plenkovic risked bringing down his own government.

“Plenkovic must decide whether to demolish his own government. MOST didn’t vote against the government but against Minister Zdravko Maric, because it felt that he [Maric] wasn’t objectively able to serve as Finance Minister,” Petrov said.

Petrov also claimed that ministers cannot be removed without his own signature – a claim that Plenkovic disagrees with.

Constitutional law expert Sanja Baric told the news site Index that the majority in parliament has to confirm the removal or appointment of ministers.

As chair of parliament, Petrov has to confirm new ministers with his signature, but only in the role of confirming that at least 76 MPs support them, she explained.

“This should have happened a few weeks ago, and then he [Plenkovic] could have linked the local [May 21] and parliamentary elections,” Zarko Puhovski, a political analyst, told N1 TV.

Puhovski explained that Plenkovic had now lost time because months would pass before any potential parliamentary elections take place in September.

While the SDP seeks early elections, not all opposition parties are ready to take part in ousting the current government.

The HDZ and MOST went through a similar situation in the previous coalition government, in which the HDZ voted against Prime Minister Oreskovic, causing the government to fall in June.

 

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