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News 12 Sep 16

HDZ Looks to Form Croatia Govt After Surprise Win

Croatia's main centre-right party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, has won most seats in the parliamentary elections and looks set to form a new government with the centre-right MOST [Bridge] party.

Sven Milekic
HDZ's political secretary Davor Ivo Stier,  and party president Andrej Plenkovic on elections night. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic

After Croatia's State Election Commission counted all the votes from the general election, the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, has emerged as the clear winner with 61 seats.

The centre-left People’s Coalition came second with 54 seats followed by the centre-right MOST [Bridge], party, which won 13.

The Only Option coalition, led by the anti-establishment Living Wall, won eight seats and came fourth.

As experts predicted, the HDZ is likely to again form a government with MOST, which HDZ’s vice president and outgoing culture minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic announced last night.

Nevertheless, MOST’s president, the outgoing vice prime minister, Bozo Petrov, said shortly after midnight that all parties and coalitions interested in forming the government have a five-day deadline to accept MOST’s seven conditions.

MOST says some of its conditions must be implemented when the new parliament is formed and before the new government is sworn in.

“This time, we don’t expect only promises from them [potential coalition partners], but doing it as well. Parliament must be constituted, realise the conditions, and then only will the government be formed,” he told enthusiastic party members and sympathizers.

“For us, a stable government is comprised of those who are willing to change things. A stable government doesn’t mean ‘only words’ and simple promises,” he explained.

Bozo Petrov (right) in MOST's elections headquarters. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/TOMISLAV PAVLEK/EV

HDZ president Andrej Plenkovic meanwhile delivered a speech after midnight Sunday, thanking his colleagues for contributing to the party’s good result, after its popularity dipped in June, during the peak of the crisis within the last government.

“We were in an unfavourable position a few months ago," he recalled.

"I had a few goals when I started working. The first was to turn back the party towards the centre, where [Franjo] Tudjman [the HDZ's founder and Croatian President] saw the HDZ,” he said in party headquarters, before a crowd of party members and sympathizers.

“I think we have succeeded in introducing a new culture of communication and dialogue in this campaign, bringing the content back to politics, basing the campaign on the program. It is obvious that these key messages were identified,” he further said.

Plenkovic concluded that the HDZ had the task of forming a new, stable, coalition government.

Since a potential HDZ-MOST coalition will still lack an absolute majority in parliament - which requires 76 seats - an important role in forming the government will be played by the national minorities’ representatives.

Besides 140 seats in ten constituencies in Croatia, eight seats are guaranteed to national minorities and three for Bosnian Croats and the diaspora, making 151 seats in total.

Meanwhile, although most opinion polls before the elections predicted that the People’s Coalition, led by Social Democratic Party, SDP, would win most seats, on Monday, the party had to confront the fact that it had fallen behind.

Addressing his disappointed voters, SDP president Zoran Milanovic said it “wasn’t a happy day for Croatia", but added that the country now needs a stable government, unlike “the last eight months, when we had a destructive one”.

Zoran Milanovic (second from the right), along with other leaders from the People's Coalition, makes his speech. Photo: Facebook

He noted the low turnout in the election, saying that people need to be motivated to take part in politics. The turnout was only 52.38 per cent, according to the State Electoral Commission, which means that of 3.8 million registered voters, only 1.9 million cast ballots. The turnout was 8 per cent lower than in last November’s elections.

“Each of us should suppress their ambition and vanity and to make themselves available,” Milanovic concluded, which some experts interpreted as an offer to form a "grand coalition" with the HDZ - an idea previously discarded by experts.

Unlike MOST, one of the biggest winners of the elections, the coalition Only Option - which also did well with eight seats - said it was highly unlikely to enter any government.

“We know that this [their party] program is not at all interesting to either the HDZ or SDP, and we know it is of no concern to MOST… therefore, our path is clear,” Ivan Vilibor Sincic, president of Living Wall, said.

Of the smaller parties, a regional party, the Istrian Democratic Assembly, IDS, won three seats, while the coalition around the Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic won two seats.

The right-wing regional Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja, HDSSB, won one seat.

Regarding the three seats from the diaspora and the Bosnian Croats, the HDZ lost one seat for the first time. This went to the independent candidate Zeljko Glasnovic, who won the seat in the same constituency for the HDZ in November.

Stay up to date on the latest events surrounding elections in Croatia with our dedicated coverage: Croatia Elections 2016.

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