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Croatia - 2016 parliamentary elections

Croatia - 2016 parliamentary elections

Cobbled together after indecisive November 2015 polls, the fragile coalition was beset by internal disputes from the beginning - with particular concerns over Croatia's shift to the right. Despite helping to bring Oreskovic to power in January 2016, the ruling right-wing coalition turned against the prime minster in May 2016 following a conflict of interest affair involving Deputy Prime Minister and HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko. In light of the political impasse, Croatia's economy continued to suffer.

The Croatian parliament ousted technocrat Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic and his government on 16 June 2016 in a no-confidence vote. It was put forward by the ruling coalitions biggest party, the conservative HDZ party. The HDZ helped install Oreskovic but had fallen out with him over a conflict of interest case involving the HDZ leader and Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko. Karamarko, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the national-conservative HDZ party. He came under pressure because his wife received a consultation fee of 60,000 euros ($68,000) from a lobbyist acting on behalf of the Hungarian mineral oil group MOL. For years, MOL and the Croatian government have been at loggerheads over power control at Croatia's public oil company INA.

The HDZ planned to propose Finance Minister Zdravko Maric as PM. If a new cabinet was not formed within 30 days, President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic would call a snap election. Early elections were expected to be held in September 2016. Croatia faced one of its most severe political crises since independence. Its ingredients are corruption, conflicts of interest, personal hostilities - and the future of the Balkan nation. Instead of implementing the necessary reforms, the country's political elite was once again focused on itself.

On 16 July 2016 Croatia's president called a snap election after the collapse of the governing coalition less than a year after it was formed. "President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has decided to call an early parliamentary election on September 11," according to a statement from her office, which came one day after parliament was formally dissolved. Political feuding derailed the implementation of badly needed economic reforms. The country was still trying to get past a six-year long recession that ended in 2014.

Cobbled together after indecisive November polls, the fragile coalition was beset by internal disputes from the beginning - with particular concerns over Croatia's shift to the right.

On 21st June 2016 the Hrvatski Sabor, the only chamber of the Croatian Parliament was dissolved in a vote in which 137 voted in support 2 against and 1 abstained; this became effective on 15 July following a vote of no confidence against the government which had taken place five days earlier: 125 of the 142 MPs present against 15 and 2 abstentions voted in support of the resignation of the head of government Tihomir Oreskovic, a first in Croatia.

Tihomir Oreskovics government was therefore the shortest in Croatias history (147 days). the experiment of a Center-Right government supervised by independent Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic must be called a failure.

This vote was initiated by the countrys main party, the Democratic Union (HDZ) which accused the Prime Minister of destabilising the government via his decisions and acts. After the vote of no confidence the HDZ had 30 days to achieve the confidence of parliament regarding the name of a new head of government. Since this was not done the President of the Republic, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic (HDZ) was obliged on 16th July to convene a snap election which she set for 11th September, which is the first of its kind organised in the country since independence in 1991. The election would be taking place less than a year after that of 8th November 2015.

The opposition (right) came out ahead in the general elections on 8th November 2015 which were organised some months after Kolinda Grabar Kitarovics win (HDZ) in the presidential race on 11th January 2015 with 50.74% of the vote against outgoing head of State Ivo Josipovic (SDP). The Domoljubna Koalicija coalition (Patriotic Coalition), led by the HDZ rallying 6 other parties, came out ahead with 33.36% of the vote and 56 seats. It drew ahead of the coalition Hrvatska Raste (Croatia is growing) led by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of outgoing Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, rallying five other parties, which won 33.2% of the vote and 56 seats.

Since they did not have the absolute majority the right-wing parties negotiated with Most-Nezavisnih Lista (Bridge-Independent Lists), a party founded in 2012 by Bozo Petrov, who took third place in the election with 13.51% of the vote (19 seats). These talks led to the formation of a government on 22 January 2016 that brought together the Patriotic Coalition and Most-Nezavisnih Lista, supported in parliament by the party of the Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic, called Milan Bandic 365 (MB 365).

The parties agreed to appoint Tihomir Oreskovic, a Croatian-Canadian businessman without any political experience as Prime Minister whilst their respective leaders Tomislav Karamarko and Bozo Petrov, were appointed Deputy Prime Ministers. The choice of certain personalities appointed as ministers was the source of contention. Hence revisionist historian, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, nostalgic of the independent Croatian State (1941-1945) of Ustae Ante Pavelic, was appointed Minister of Culture.

Under the leadership of Tomislav Karamarko, the HDZ became increasingly nationalistic. Once in power the party said it wanted to control the media, give more precedence to the church and to challenge some social rights; it also cut the subsidies granted to some cultural institutions and NGO qualified as neocommunist. It revised the judgment given to the war crimes committed by the Ustase during the Second World War.

Relations between the two main government parties rapidly deteriorated and their fragile alliance finally came to an end. The ruling right-wing coalition turned against the prime minster last month following a conflict of interest affair involving Deputy Prime Minister and HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko.

HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko came under pressure after a national ethics watchdog found that his wife had received a consultation fee of 60,000 euros ($68,000) from a lobbyist acting on behalf of the Hungarian mineral oil group MOL. For years, MOL and the Croatian government have been at loggerheads over control at Croatia's public oil company INA. According to Croatian media reports, MOL appears to have gained its influence at INA through corruption. Following those allegations, junior coalition partner Most called for Karamarko to step down as deputy head of government.

According to the polls two-thirds of the Croats wanted early elections so that the countrys political crisis can be brought to an end. Opinion surveys showed the main opposition Social Democrats (SDP) with a solid 10 percent lead over HDZ.

The Democratic Union (HDZ), led by Andrej Plenkovic, MEP came out ahead in the general elections on 11th September in Croatia. The first snap election organised in the country since independence in 1991 followed the dissolution of the Hrvatski Sabor, the only chamber in parliament on 21st June, which itself followed a vote of no-confidence against the government led by Tihomir Oreskovic five days earlier. The HDZ proved the opinion polls wrong and won 36.6% of the vote and 61 seats (+ 5 in comparison with the previous general election on 8th November 2015).

The main opposition movement, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) led by former Prime Minister (2011-2016) Zoran Milanovic that had joined forces with three other parties (the Peoples Party (HNS) and the Pensioners Party (HSU)) within the Peoples Coalition lost ground. It won 33.5% of the vote and 54 seats (- 2).

Most-Nezavisnih Lista (Bridge-Independent Lists), a party founded in 2012 by Bozo Petrov, also lost ground even though it maintained its third place with 9.8% of the vote and 13 seats (- 6). Finally, Zivi zid (Human Shield, ZZ), founded to counter expropriation and foreign banks, whom it accuses practicing exaggerated interest rates, led by Ivan-Vilibor Sincic, made a breakthrough with 8 seats (+ 7). Turnout was lower than that registered in the previous election on 8th November 2015: - 8.23 points. It came to 52.59%.

In light of the political impasse, Croatia's economy continued to suffer, with the snap election now expected to further delay the country's much-needed economic reforms. Since joining the EU in 2013, Croatia has continued to be one of the bloc's worst performers.

Croatia's parliament backed the new country's new conservative government 19 October 2016. MPs voted 91 to 45, with three abstaining, in favour of Plenkovic's cabinet of 20 ministers. The new government was formed by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and its junior centre-right reformist partner Most ("Bridge") after weeks of negotiations following a snap September 11 election, which followed the collapse of the previous HDZ-Most government in June, after just five months in power. The government had 91 of the 151 MPs.







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