Saturday 24 August 2019

Croatia's opposition conservatives win general election

Opposition leader Tomislav Karamarko celebrates his victory in Zagreb (AP)
Opposition leader Tomislav Karamarko celebrates his victory in Zagreb (AP)

Croatia's conservative opposition has won the Balkan country's first parliamentary election since joining the European Union in 2013, but without enough votes to rule alone.

The state electoral commission said that with 99% of the vote counted, the conservatives, led by former intelligence chief Tomislav Karamarko, won 59 seats in the 151-seat parliament.

The ruling Social Democrats, led by incumbent prime minister Zoran Milanovic, got 56 seats.

The result means both blocs have failed to win an outright majority and the forming of the new government will depend on several small parties that entered parliament.

The kingmaker will be the third-placed party, Most, or Bridge, with 19 seats.

Sunday's election was held amid a huge migrant surge through Croatia and deep economic woes facing the country.

Mr Milanovic called on Most leaders to start negotiations on the forming of a new government.

Before the election, Most leaders pledged they would not enter a coalition government with any of the big parties, but may give them support in parliament if they offer to carry out radical political, social and economic reforms.

Most leader Bozo Petrov said: "I don't believe that either of the big parties will agree with our reform proposals."

According to the constitution, Croatia's president must consult parliamentary parties and nominate a prime minister-designate who gains the support of the majority of members of parliament.

If the prime minister-designate fails to form a new government within two months, new elections are called.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a conservative, said: "I believe that we will have a new prime minister-designate soon."

The vote represented a revival for Mr Karamarko's conservative Croatian Democratic Union party, which led Croatia during its war for independence from the Serb-led Yugoslavia in the 1990s and then dominated its political scene for years.

Its popularity fell after a series of corruption trials against top officials.

Ms Grabar-Kitarovic's presidential election victory earlier this year was a clear sign that Croatia was shifting to the right after the centre-left bloc's four-year rule.

PA Media

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