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Croatia - 2015 Parliamentary Elections

2015 parliamentary elections

Croatian Parliament as of 2015
Croatian Democratic Union HDZ 56 mandates
Social Democratic Party of Croatia SDP56 mandates
Bridge of Independent ListsMOST 19 mandates
Istrian Democratic Assembly IDS 3 mandates
Labor and Solidarity Coalition 2 mandates
Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja HDSSB 2 mandates
Forward Croatia 1 mandate
Representatives of National Minorities8 mandates
Croatian Peasant Party HSS 0 mandates
Croatian Social Liberal Party HSLS 0 mandates
Croatian People's Party HNS 0 mandates
Croatian Party of Rights HSP 0 mandates
Croatian Party of Pensioners HSU 0 mandates
Croatia is a parliamentary republic with legislative power vested in the 151-member unicameral parliament (Sabor). Members of parliament are elected for a four-year term. The head of state is the president, directly elected for a five-year term. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won the January 2015 presidential election and became the first female president of the country.

The last parliamentary elections were held on 4 December 2011. The Kukuriku coalition, led by the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP) and including the Croatian People's Party – Liberal Democrats (HNS), the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS) and the Croatian Party of Pensioners (HSU) won a parliamentary majority of 80 seats. The runner-up, a coalition of the HDZ, the Croatian Civic Party (HGS) and the Democratic Center (DC), gained 47 seats.

Besides the eight seats reserved for representatives of national minorities, the remaining mandates were distributed among the Labor Party (HL), the Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja (HDSSB), the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS), the coalition of the Croatian Party of Rights Dr. Ante Starcevic (HSP–AS) and the Croatian Pure Party of Rights, as well as independent candidates. At the moment of dissolution, 38 members of parliament were women. (25%).

On 28 September 2015, the parliament unanimously agreed to dissolve itself. On 5 October, President Grabar-Kitarovic set the date for the parliamentary elections for 8 November. These were the first parliamentary elections since Croatia joined the European Union in July 2013.

While political parties in Croatia are numerous, the political landscape is characterized by the dominance of two major ones (the SDP and the HDZ) and a lack of political activity by the majority of registered parties. 3 In light of a widely perceived growing dissatisfaction with the two major parties, several new parties emerged prior to these elections.

The 151 members of parliament are directly elected for a four-year term from 12 multi-member constituencies: 10 territorial constituencies, each electing 14 deputies, and 2 special constituencies, one representing citizens residing abroad, electing 3 deputies, and one representing national minorities, electing 8 deputies.

Voters who, on the basis of self-declaration, are identified on the voter lists as belonging to one of the 22 constitutionally recognized national minorities, have the option to vote for candidates in the constituency established to fill the seats reserved for national minority representatives. Within this constituency, the candidates are elected under a majoritarian system in 6 separate contests. The one for the Serbian national minority fills 3 reserved seats, and the remaining 5 seats are reserved for the other 21 national minorities.

The official campaign period commenced on 21 October and ended 24 hours before election day, when the silence period started. Lasting 17 days, this campaign was the shortest in Croatia’s history. While some electoral contestants said they would have preferred a longer campaign period, many expressed satisfaction with this short campaign, stating that an ‘unofficial campaign’ had anyway commenced right after the presidential election in January 2015.

Campaigning took place in an open atmosphere, characterized by respect for the fundamental freedoms of expression, movement and assembly. Despite the fact that many political parties entered coalitions led by the two major parties, SDP and HDZ, some political party representatives that the OSCE/ODIHR EAM met with expressed concern that the broad pre-electoral coalitions preclude small parties from having a real impact on policymaking.

The visibility of the campaign was low throughout the country. To convey their messages, contestants mainly used meetings with voters in public places, broadcast media, distribution of leaflets, door-todoor canvassing, and, to a limited extent, posters and billboards. During the last week of the campaign, the two major coalitions organized large-scale rallies in the capital. The campaigns of the SDP and the HDZ focused on their respective party leaders and their aspiration to win the position of the prime minister.

While electoral contestants conveyed general messages on the necessity to conduct economic, social and political reforms, to create jobs and reduce emigration, there was often little detail to support broad campaign promises. Women featured in campaign materials and participated in campaign events. With few exceptions, political parties were led by men and there were no special electoral platforms targeting women voters. Despite the fact that candidates' language was mostly moderate, some messages were populist and negative in tone.

Political parties, candidates and independent lists or lists of groups of voters may finance their election campaign from their own resources, donations and other eligible sources. The law prohibits donations from foreign, anonymous, religious, humanitarian and other non-profit associations and organizations, as well as from labour unions or employer associations, and establishes limits for donations received within a calendar year.

Croatia’s media landscape is pluralistic and extensive, with 11 national TV stations, 20 local TV channels, 145 radio stations (including seven national channels), some 10 daily newspapers, and 36 weeklies or bi-weeklies. There are several internet news portals, and political debate also takes place on social media.

Television is considered the main source of information. Public broadcaster Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT) operates four channels, two of which offer information programmes. The most-watched privately owned national stations are Nova TV and RTL. While the print sector is in decline, daily papers are still viewed as influential in terms of setting the news agenda on TV and radio. Jutarnji List and Vecernji List are the most read national dailies. Internet use is increasing with 68 per cent of the population having access.

Croatia's center-left coalition faced a strong challenge 08 November 2015 as voters chose between the ruling party and the center-right opposition, with both running neck-and-neck in pre-election polls. The rightist Patriotic Coalition favored a tougher stance than the ruling Social Democrats on refugees. Campaigning focused on whether stricter border controls were needed to manage flow of transiting migrants. The nationalist-rooted HDZ, which steered Croatia to independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, accused the center-left government of Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic of being soft on migrants.

The electoral commission said 09 November 2015 that with 99 percent of the vote counted, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won 59 seats in the 151-member parliament. The ruling Social Democrats finished with 56 seats. A newer party called Most, or Bridge, won 19 seats and would be key in the negotiations to form a coalition government. The rest of the seats went to IDS (3), HDSSB (2), Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic (2), Živi Zid (1), and Successful Croatia (1). National minorities have elected additional 8 members of parliament.

New political party Most ("Bridge" in Croatian), was set to become a powerful force in national politics, coming third with 19 seats, although leader Bozo Petrov repeated a pre-electoral pledge that his party would not enter a coalition. MOST is a group of mostly independent candidates led by Božo Petrov, mayor of Metkovic in southern Croatia. Since this is the first time they have take part in parliamentary elections and the fact that they have members with vastly different views, at the moment it was hard to predict which of the two main coalitions they are closer to.

On December 23, 2015 Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic named a little-known pharmaceutical executive as the country's next prime minister, more than a month after parliamentary elections showed no clear winner. Tihomir Oreskovic was not affiliated with any political party and little was known about him other than he is the former head of Croatia's largest pharmaceutical house. He was a compromise candidate nominated by Croatia's two conservative parties — the Croatia Democratic Union, which won 59 seats in last month's election, and the newly formed Most party, which won 19 seats.

Twenty-three women were elected, constituting 15.2 per cent of the new parliament. The number of female MPs decreased in comparison with the previous parliament and is well below the average of 24.2 per cent of women in parliaments in the OSCE region, despite international recommendations to increase the share of women in political office.

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic named a little-known pharmaceutical executive as the country's next prime minister, more than a month after parliamentary elections showed no clear winner. "I'll do my best to form a quality government," Tihomir Oreskovic said December 23, 2015. "Our only goal is to together work on tomorrow becoming a better day than today for Croatian citizens."

Oreskovic is not affiliated with any political party and little is known about him other than he is the former head of Croatia's largest pharmaceutical house. He was a compromise candidate nominated by Croatia's two conservative parties — the Croatia Democratic Union, which won 59 seats in last month's election, and the newly formed Most party, which won 19 seats.

The ruling left-wing Social Democratic party won 56 seats. None of the parties won enough seats to form a government on its own.

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