The outgoing conservatives in Croatia emerged strengthened from the legislative elections on Sunday, July 5, and are in a comfortable position to form a government which will have the task of facing the coronavirus and its painful economic repercussions.
The ballot, which was held in the shadow of a resurgence of the pandemic, was announced as extremely close. But Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s HDZ has succeeded in convincing voters to remain loyal to a party that has dominated political life since the independence of Croatia in 1991.
The Conservatives have clearly outdistanced their main rivals from the center-left coalition led by the Social Democrats of Davor Bernardic.
“Such a result for the HDZ constitutes not only a great victory but also a victory which commits us”, launched the Prime Minister to his supporters. “We have behind us a mandate with multiple challenges but the challenges to come are even greater”, he warned.
According to the official results after counting nearly 90% of the votes, the HDZ consolidates its presence in Parliament with 68 seats out of 151, the center left inherited 42 seats while party of Miroslav Skoro, a popular and populist singer who was presented by the polls as a kingmaker, won 15 seats. If they did not get an absolute majority, the Conservatives should be able to count on the support of the eight members of parliament who are members of the minority. They could do without an alliance with the “Patriotic movement” of the nationalist folk singer to reach the 76 seats necessary for the formation of a government.
Fear of the future
Uncertainty about the future has dominated the countryside as the Croatian economy, which is highly dependent on tourism, is expected to shrink by almost 10%, the worst contraction in decades.
“The winner will face big economic problems in the fall. It will not be easy ”explains to the Agence France-Presse Igor Ivic, economist.
Andrej Plenkovic, 50, a former diplomat versed in European affairs and supported in Brussels, played the card of the gloomy times to come to ask the voters to continue to trust him. “We must make serious choices and not quackery”, hammered the head of government. “Croatia doesn’t need experiments like with Bernardic or Skoro”.
The ruling party also highlighted its relative control of the health crisis, with around 110 dead and 3,000 infected. The Balkan country, a member of the European Union, has avoided the explosive scenarios seen elsewhere even if for the past two weeks a few dozen contaminations have been identified daily as at the initial peak.
The heavy defeat of the Social Democrats (SDP) is a surprise as polls placed them shoulder to shoulder with the HDZ and Davor Bernardic said he was ready to resign from the head of the party.
Analysts say the SDP was the victim of competition from an alliance between the Greens and small left-wing parties and the lack of charisma of its boss when it was a social democrat, Zoran Milanovic, who won the presidential election in January.
The SDP had accused the government of having put Croatia ” in danger “ by deciding to hold elections during the pandemic.
The opposition also tried to seize the occasion of a series of scandals involving the HDZ to denounce “The way of corruption”.
Miroslav Skoro, 57, a former HDZ ally who seduces part of the right wing of the conservative party disappointed by the moderate policies of Andrej Plenkovic, claimed to be “The only guarantor of change” and sent two main parties back to back.
In the meantime, many Croats want things to happen in a country that is undergoing massive emigration due to low wages and corruption. “A lot has to change. We don’t focus enough on the Croats who are leaving, on unemployment and low wages for young people ”said Branka Tekavec, a 76-year-old retired teacher.