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Croatia, which government after the elections? / Croatia / areas / Home

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Croatia, which government after the elections?  / Croatia / areas / Home

Zagreb, Croatia, Seat of Government – Photo N. Corritore

As expected, the outcome of last Wednesday’s vote for the renewal of the Croatian parliament was clear: the outgoing prime minister Andrej Plenković and his HDZ won with 61 seats out of Sabor’s 151. However, this is not a sufficient number to be able to govern alone

The outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is the winner of the duel with the President of the Republic Zoran Milanović. In the legislative elections held in Croatia on Wednesday, the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party led by Plenković came into the lead for the third time in a row since 2016.

The incendiary rhetoric of the head of state Milanović was of no avail, as a month ago he announced his surprise entry into the field (and without resigning) to lead the opposition coalition.

The HDZ obtained 61 seats out of 151 in the Sabor, the Croatian parliament, while the “Rivers of Justice” coalition, formed around the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Zoran Milanović, stopped at 42.

But if it is clear who won the clash between the two highest offices of the state, it is not equally clear what the majority will support the next executive. To reach the threshold of 76 deputies needed to govern, Plenković needs allies. Most likely he will be able to count, as he has done so far, on the support of the 8 deputies representing the national minorities. But he will still have to look elsewhere for the 7 missing parliamentarians.

The far right in government?

Let’s see what the other forces are at play. In third position, after the coalitions of HDZ and SDP, came the Patriotic Movement (Domovinski Pokret, DP), a far-right formation born in 2020 from an offshoot of the HDZ, because it broke with Plenković’s moderate leadership.

The DP obtained 14 deputies and is open to dialogue, despite having already imposed its conditions. “We ask that [il presidente serbo, nda.] Vučić clearly admit responsibility for the tragedy of the 1990s and pay war reparations. For us this is a prerequisite for the normalization of relations. Here Plenković has a different attitude, but we don’t want to sacrifice our interests on the altar of European values,” Stjepo Bartulica from Domovinski Pokret said on Thursday.

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Bartulica also argued that the remnants of “socialist thought” must be eradicated in Croatia, as well as reducing (or completely cutting?) funding for the Serbian minority. “Just look at what he writes about me Novosti [il settimanale della minoranza serba, nda.]. These are things that do not deserve to be financed by taxpayers,” added Stjepo Bartulica.

The Patriotic Movement has also made it known that it does not intend to support a government in which the SDSS is present, the party that represents the Serbian minority in Croatia and which has 3 deputies at Sabor (in the last Plenković government, a representative of the SDSS was deputy prime minister).

If accepted, these conditions would inevitably bring the HDZ back to very nationalist positions, as was the case in 2015/2016, before Andrej Plenković came to power. However, it is not certain that the outgoing prime minister should have to negotiate with the DP as a single bloc. Already on the evening of the vote, rumors circulated of a possible internal split within the Patriotic Movement and after all, the HDZ doesn’t even need all 14 deputies elected from the DP quota.

Milanović’s silence

After having hammered public opinion for months with his abrasive statements to the Donald Trump, President Zoran Milanović did not say a word on Wednesday evening, leaving SDP leader Peđa Grbin with the thankless task of commenting on a defeat by passing it off as a half victory.

“Two-thirds of the voters voted for change,” said Grbin, putting all the Croatian parties except the HDZ in the same bag and suggesting that a coalition between them would be possible in order to send the party founded by Franco Tuđman into the opposition .

In reality it must be admitted that Milanović’s populist, nationalist and at times pro-Russian rhetoric has had the effect of favoring the right. “The SDP left the entire election campaign to Zoran Milanović, after which the HDZ won only five seats less than four years ago, the DP became the star of the elections and Most consolidated its status. Milanović was doping, but for the right”, writes Tomislav Klauški in his editorial in the newspaper 24Sata .

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In fact, the party that came in fourth place in the Croatian legislative elections also belongs to the right-wing hemisphere. This is Most, a Catholic and conservative formation founded in 2012 by the then mayor of Metković Božo Petrov.

Most obtained 11 deputies, but on Wednesday evening made it known that it does not intend to ally itself with the HDZ. It may be that the party will remain faithful to this position, but at the end of 2015 this was not the case. Then Petrov even went to the notary to record his statement that he would never ally himself with the HDZ after the vote. But at the beginning of 2016 it was Most who supported the Orešković government together with the hated HDZ. An experience that lasted only one year.

Good news for the greens

Fifth party on the Croatian political scene, Možemo achieves a good result. It obtains 10 deputies in parliament against the 4 it had in the last legislature (it is the group that has grown the most) and manages to pass the threshold in several electoral constituencies, even far from the capital, Zagreb, where this ecological movement and progressive born in 2019 has its roots.

The result bodes well for the European elections on 9 June, but above all for next year’s local elections. In Zagreb, mayor Tomislav Tomašević, elected in 2021 from Možemo, will in fact seek a second mandate. For these elections, however, the Greens will be relegated, barring any twists and turns, to the opposition.

On Wednesday evening, Možemo’s prime ministerial candidate, Sandra Benčić, insisted that the numbers are there for the SDP to form a minority government, supported by all the other parties (including the far right) with the aim of wresting the HDZ’s keys to power. But the project seems difficult to implement and perhaps not even very desirable.

In fact, if it is true that the last two Plenković governments were marked by constant scandals of corruption and clientelism (thirty ministers and undersecretaries had to be replaced in eight years because they ended up in the trap of justice), it is also true that on many issues and in particular in foreign policy, a government led by Zoran Milanović would have represented a leap in the dark.

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A friend of Viktor Orban and Milorad Dodik, Milanović has clashed in recent months with a feminist association in Zagreb, has taken tough positions against migrants and since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine he has never condemned Moscow, speaking of a “American and Russian war” underway in the country.

More recently, Milanović did not respect the warning of the Constitutional Court which invited him to resign as head of state to participate in the legislative elections.

In short, the “Croatian Trump”, as some of the local press nicknamed him, would hardly have led to left-wing policies, but more likely to a general destabilization of the institutions and the country.

Busy on the eve of the vote in the central square of Zagreb, Možemo’s prime minister candidate Sandra Benčić assured that “Milanović goes fishing for the electorate where the HDZ usually fishes”. Her populist declarations would only be “a tactic” – Benčić told OBCT – to steal votes from the right.

But once again the theory has been confirmed, already seen in action in many countries, that basing one’s electoral campaign on right-wing positions hardly brings votes to the left.

Možemo achieved a good result precisely because he did not chase the HDZ on its issues, while the SDP will have to do self-criticism for the umpteenth time and rediscover its values. Meanwhile, the HDZ consolidates a power that will now be difficult to undermine.

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