Croatia votes in popularity test for the long-ruling HDZ

April 17, 2024 3:30 pm

[Source: Reuters]

Croats will cast their votes in a parliamentary vote that will test the popularity of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his ruling conservative HDZ party, accused by opponents of corruption and nepotism.

The HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) hopes to ride on the long-term support it has for overseeing Croatia’s accession to the European Union, the introduction of the euro and a boom in tourists visiting the country’s Adriatic coastline.

But many have grown tired of HDZ, which has dominated politics since Croatia’s independence from a crumbling federal Yugoslavia in 1991.

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Analysts say its many graft scandals, including Plenkovic’s appointment of a state attorney known for links with people involved in corrupt dealings, may dent its majority. Plenkovic denies wrongdoing.

“I will vote for the SDP because it fights against corruption to make it easier for us young people, to stop emigration from Croatia and for the elderly to increase pensions and salaries,” said Sasa Zarkovic, 33.

Some 3.7 million voters will chose between more than 2,000 candidates. Polling stations open at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT). Exit polls are expected minutes after voting closes at 7 p.m. Official results are expected in the following days

The most recent polls by IPSOS see HDZ taking 60 seats in the 151-seat parliament, more than any other party but not enough to take an outright majority. Coalition talks are expected to follow the vote.

Plenkovic’s main rival is President Zoran Milanovic, who said he would resign to become the head of government if his Social Democratic Party (SDP) takes power with help from other smaller parties.

“This (the election) is a referendum about Croatia’s future. Croatia cannot stand another four years of Plenkovic’s rule,” Milanovic said in a video published on his Facebook page.

If the outcome puts a Social Democrat-led coalition into power, it could change the country’s stance on major issues such as support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. Milanovic opposes help for Ukraine.

A coalition led by SDP, called Rivers of Justice, is forecast to come second n the poll with 41 seats while the right-wing Homeland Movement and the green Mozemo party are seen coming third and fourth, with 15 and 11 seats respectively.

“A more fragmented parliament could also pave the way for a diverse coalition led by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to come into office, which would heighten political unpredictability and instability,” Teneo consultancy said in a note.