Saturday 3 December 2016

No clear winner in Croatia parliamentary election

Published 11/09/2016 | 08:31

Zoran Milanovic, leader of the centre-left coalition, greets supporters at a rally in Zagreb ahead of the election
Zoran Milanovic, leader of the centre-left coalition, greets supporters at a rally in Zagreb ahead of the election

An initial exit poll in Croatia's early parliamentary election indicates there will be no clear winner, paving the way for more political uncertainty in the European Union's newest member state.

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The left-wing Peoples' Coalition won 58 seats in Croatia's 151-seat parliament, according to the poll conducted by Croatia's independent Ipsos Puls agency, carried by state TV.

The conservative Croatian Democratic Union had 57 seats, while possible power-sharing party Most, or Bridge, won 11 seats.

The second vote in less than a year was called when a previous, right-wing government collapsed in June after less than six months in power, paralysed by bickering within the ruling coalition.

AP

Political deadlock has delayed reforms that are necessary for Croatia to catch up with the rest of the EU.

It has also fuelled nationalist rhetoric amid heightened tensions with Serbia - its wartime foe in the 1990s, raising fears of renewed tensions in the Balkans.

Some analysts have predicted that Croatia's next government could take months to form, and end up as weak as the previous one.

Croatia had tilted to the right under the HDZ-led government that took over following the inconclusive vote last November.

However, in the past few weeks it has sought to remake its image as a centrist party under new leader Andrej Plenkovic.

The more moderate leader, who took over from right-leaning Tomislav Karamarko earlier this summer, said that he expected high turnout among Croatia's nearly 3.8 million voters.

"We are happy," Mr Plenkovic said upon casting his ballot. "It's a beautiful day, so I expect the turnout to be bigger than if it was rainy."

Hours before the polls closed, the turnout was nearly 10% less than in November.

President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic urged more Croats to come out and vote, saying the country's future is in their hands.

HDZ and the Social Democrats have been the two dominant parties in Croatia since the country split from former Yugoslavia in 1991.

The Social Democrats, led by former prime minister Zoran Milanovic, were in power for four years until last November.

"We have shown that we are competent and that we have more heart," Mr Milanovic said as he cast his vote. "The rest is up to the people."

Although more advanced than other Balkan countries, Croatia has one of the weakest economies in the EU following years of crisis after the 1991-95 war.

AP

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