24 September, 2016
Croatia votes on Sunday (September 11) in an early election that seems likely to prolong political uncertainty in the EU's newest member, at a time of strained ties between Balkan neighbours.
With more than half of the ballots counted, Croatia's state election authorities said early on Monday that the conservative Croatian Democratic Union, or HDZ, have won 62 seats in the 151-seat parliament, while rival left-leaning People's Coalition won 53.
The previous barely-functioning coalition government, led by the HDZ, took power after the November vote. And it has a new leader, Andrej Plenkovic, a former career diplomat who has a reputation as a moderate with little time for nationalist causes.
And the preliminary results suggest they could be facing a similar scenario that which followed the previous vote - prolonged talks on forming a government and potentially another election. Though HDZ did better than expected, analysts say tt will need smaller groups such as center-right Most to form a coalition government.
The conservative party also faces a tough fight from the Social Democrats (SDP), whose leader Zoran Milanovic still hopes of forming the government. The HDZ is expected to join up with Most, a centrist party, in parliament. The third party is the young Most (bridge), which has a strong populist streak, whose 12 lawmakers will once again be key for the future majority.
The conservative Croatian Democratic Union declared victory in a snap election, vowing to form a new government and end a political deadlock that has stalled attempts to light a fire under an economic recovery following a record recession.
"My mission is to position it in the center-right", 46-year-old former member of the European Parliament said.
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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. Like the HDZ, however, the SDP has also shifted toward the center.
After 60% of votes were counted, the HDZ had about 61 seats while the Social Democrats (SDP) had around 54, Reuters reported.
Croatia had tilted to the right under the HDZ-led government that took over following the inconclusive vote last November.
Hours before the polls closed, the turnout among Croatia's 3.8 million voters was almost 10 percent less than in November.
But the head of the Croatian Employers' Association Davor Majetic warned this was "not a sign that we have created conditions for long-term and stable growth".
Croatia has among the weakest economies in the EU.
Unemployment stands at more than 13 percent, public debt has reached 85 percent of GDP, while the investment climate remains poor.