2007 parliamentary elections
The HDZ government, headed by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, was narrowly re-elected in a 25 November 2007 ballot. Led by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, in the post-Tudjman era the HDZ evolved from its nationalistic beginnings to a much more main stream, right-of-center political force. Despite progress in reforming the party, the HDZ's efforts to retain control of the government may be undermined by continued accusations of corruption and significant concerns over unemployment. The HDZ relied in part on traditional bastions of conservative support such as the Catholic Church and the Bosnian Croat community,
Initially the SDP enjoyed a 3 to 4 percentage point advantage over the HDZ. Having entered the election season confident it would oust the HDZ, the SDP watched its lead shrink to where the election was very close. The SDP's campaign had been based largely on negative portrayals of the HDZ record, and relatively little substance in terms of new policies. The SDP's split leadership structure contrasted sharply with the Sanader-dominated HDZ, but has left many voters somewhat confused about who would be making the decisions in an SDP-run government. Three main ideas were driving the SDP's campaign: a sense that the HDZ is an arrogant and corrupt party that has failed to produce economic benefits to the broader population; a resentment of the influence of certain groups such as the diaspora or the Catholic church over Croatian politics and policies; and a conviction that the Croatian people are ready for a change.
What increasingly got SDP activists worked up was not HDZ corruption, but the HDZ's virtual lock on the 2 to 6 seats the Croatian disapora will hold in the next Parliament. All adult Croatian citizens are guaranteed a vote by the Croatian Constitution, wherever they reside. Voters who reside in Croatia but happen to be outside of Croatia's borders on election day can vote in diplomatic-consular missions for representatives of one of ten electoral districts covering their place of residence in Croatia. A much larger category of voters are Croats in the "diaspora" who do not have any residence in Croatia, who vote in a special "eleventh district". Some 400,000 Croatian citizens are eligible to vote in this district, the vast majority of them Bosnian Croats who have lived in B-H for centuries, and who have no ties to any specific residence or district within Croatia. Since diaspora voting began in 1995, eighty percent of votes in the eleventh district have come from BH Croats. The diaspora voters have traditionally supported the HDZ. In 1995, when the law guaranteed 12 diaspora seats, the HDZ swept them all.
The new government assumed office on January 12, 2008. The HDZ-led government that assumed office in January 2008 represented a coalition agreement between the HDZ (66 seats), the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) (6 seats), the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS) (3 seats), and other minority representatives. The Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), which had two seats in the Sabor, decided to leave the coalition in June 2010 but the two HSLS deputies split with their party and reached an agreement to cooperate with the ruling coalition. The lone representative of the Croatian Party of Pensioners (HSU) previously left the coalition government in July 2009. The Sanader government's priorities included membership for Croatia in the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Croatia joined NATO in April 2009.
In July 2009, Prime Minister Sanader unexpectedly resigned. Sanader told reporters he decided to withdraw from politics after two decades not for health reasons, but because he wanted a new beginning in his life. He said important goals were realized under his leadership. In October 2009 he appeared before a government panel investigating the 2009 sale of Croatia's state-run oil company. The committee wanted to know details of why the INA oil firm was privatized and why a Hungarian firm gained effective control of one of Croatia's largest companies. Sanader testified at the hearing that most leaders of Croatia's ruling conservative party (HDZ) including current Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, were aware of the deal. An anti-corruption advocate and one of two deputy prime ministers at the time of the sale, Kosor said she was not involved.
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